The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 24, 2012

Triple murderer wants to erase rape charges

Associated Press

HARRISBURG — A man convicted of murdering his estranged wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve 2002 is asking a Pennsylvania judge to expunge charges that he raped his daughters.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported Monday that Ernest R. Wholaver Jr. is arguing the charges should be erased because he was acquitted of them during the 2004 trial in which he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder.

He is serving three death sentences in Waynesburg state prison in Greene County.

Wholaver was convicted of murdering his wife, Jean, 43, and their daughters, Victoria, 20, and Elizabeth, 15. Police found the three victims shot to death in their Middletown home on Christmas Day after they didn’t show up for Christmas Eve dinner at Jean’s mother’s home in Johnstown. Victoria’s 9-month-old daughter was found crying next to her mother’s body but unharmed.

In a response filed Dec. 14, Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo asked the court to keep the charges on Wholaver’s record.

The charges are vital to the prosecution’s theory of Wholaver’s motive for the slayings, Chardo said. Authorities say Wholaver killed them because he wanted to prevent his daughters from testifying that he had repeatedly raped them.

“If those charges remain they would probably be admissible to show his motive to commit these murders,” Chardo told the Patriot-News.

An expungement usually results from an acquittal, Chardo said, but “there are special circumstances here.”

Chardo said in his petition that Wholaver’s attempt to expunge the rape counts should be rejected because “he achieved the acquittals through the murder of the three principal witnesses against him.”

The killings took place less than a month before the girls planned to testify in court that he had sexually molested them for years.

Two of the victims also had given testimony concerning the sexual abuse allegations before they died.

During the 2004 trial, prosecutors were hamstrung on the sexual assault charges because they had to rely on the transcript of a hearing that took place before the women died, Chardo had said at the time.