The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 18, 2012

Officials rule out seeking death penalty

2 homicide suspects plead not guilty in separate cases

EBENSBURG — Cambria County prosecutors announced Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty for two defendants charged in unrelated homicides.

The accused are:

• Patrick Burkett, 25, of Beaverdale, who is charged in the shaking death of 22-month-old Raegan Panick, the daughter of Burkett’s girlfriend, in August.

• Sherman Holes, 43, of Cherry Tree, Indiana County, who is charged in the beating death of 79-year-old Arthur “Arch” Henry of Northern Cambria in 2010.

Both defendants entered “not guilty” pleas Tuesday at their formal arraignments in county court – Burkett before Judge Timothy Creany, and Holes before Judge Norman Krumenacker.

Both would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.

Creany said that Burkett’s case is tentatively set for trial in April, while Krumenacker said that he would be meeting with the defense lawyers and prosecutors early next year to set up a trial schedule for Holes.

Burkett is charged with both first-degree and third-degree murder as well as aggravated assault, simple assault and child endangerment.

State police alleged that he was watching the toddler while the mother was at work on Aug. 10. The mother found the girl unresponsive when she returned home.

The girl was taken to Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown and then flown by medical helicopter to Pittsburgh, where she died a day later at Children’s Hospital.

District Attorney Kelly Callihan said that the facts of the child’s death “would not support us seeking a death sentence even through this was a tragic death of a child. The medical findings were the cause of death was consistent with a violent shaking coupled with blunt force trauma to the head.”

Assistant District Attorney Beth Penna said the victim’s mother understands why the prosecution is not seeking a death sentence but wants the defendant prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Assistant public defender Patricia Moore, one of Burkett’s lawyers, told the judge that the defense would be seeking the appointment of experts to review the medical records and autopsy reports in preparing for trial.

Holes faces a general charge of criminal homicide, which, the judge said, can include anything from manslaughter to first-degree murder. The defendant also is charged with aggravated assault.

Henry was found nearly unconscious in a pool of blood on his living room floor the evening of June 30, 2010, in his mobile home. He was taken to Memorial Medical Center, where he died three days later of traumatic brain injuries.

Holes was not arrested by state police until this year. Prosecutors said that a relatively new method of showing mathematical probabilities linking DNA evidence to both the defendant and the victim led to his arrest.

Police alleged that a 29-inch-long wooden plank, which was found hidden behind a washer in the trailer, was the murder weapon.

In deciding not to seek a death sentence, the prosecution took into consideration both the lapse of time since the murder took place and that the case is a circumstantial one with no eyewitness to the injuries being inflicted, Heath Long, first assistant district attorney, said.

David Raho, one of the assistant public defenders representing Holes, said that the defense “is reviewing the discovery materials turned over by the prosecution and is beginning to prepare appropriate pretrial motions. It’s very early in (developing a defense) in the case.”

Both defendants, wearing red prison clothing, were returned to the county prison, where they are being held without bond. Holes is temporarily housed there and will be taken back by deputies to State Correctional Institution-Retreat, where he’s serving time in an unrelated case.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 18, 2014

  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads