National Roundup

Pennsylvania
Man guilty of killing organist ex in church

COUDERSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A northern Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting his ex-wife while she played the organ during a church service last year.
Under the plea agreement entered Wednesday, 53-year-old Gregory Eldred of Coudersport will receive a mandatory life prison term when he returns for sentencing next week.
Eldred pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, acknowledging that he gunned down 53-year-old Darlene Sitler while she was serving as the organist at the First United Presbyterian Church of Coudersport on Dec. 2. The church is about 140 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Eldred was an elementary school music teacher, while Sitler taught music at the Northern Potter Children’s School.
According to The Bradford Era, District Attorney Andy Watson told the judge that Eldred killed his ex because of unspecified “information she possessed.”

Texas
Ex-police officer appeals in teen beating case

HOUSTON (AP) — A former Houston police officer convicted in the videotaped beating of a 15-year-old burglary suspect during a daylight arrest is seeking a new trial, citing juror misconduct.
The Houston Chronicle reports attorneys for Drew Ryser say the jury foreman researched the case online outside the courtroom, looking up the word “mistreatment” and sharing the search results with fellow jurors.
The defense motion was filed Wednesday. Special prosecutor Tommy LaFon says the issue will be reviewed.
Jurors convicted Ryser last month of misdemeanor official oppression in the beating of Chad Holley in March 2010. Ryser was sentenced to two years of probation.
Holley was convicted of burglary and sentenced to probation, then last year was arrested on another burglary charge and sentenced in April to six months in jail.

Pennsylvania
Homeless vet dies after fatal assault with knife

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors say a homeless veteran assaulted near a train station outside Philadelphia has died and the charges against the suspected attacker are being upgraded.
Bucks County prosecutors say Dale Wakefield had been out celebrating his 21st birthday before he stabbed 71-year-old George Mohr at least 70 times with a pocket knife outside the Doylestown train station on July 3.
The district attorney’s office says Mohr died from his injuries three days later. Prosecutor Michelle Henry says the charges against Wakefield are being upgraded from attempted murder to murder.
Investigators say Wakefield called his sister and said he had stabbed someone and was in Baltimore, where he was arrested.

California
Man to be tried in girlfriend’s explosives death

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — A San Diego County judge has ruled that a man must face trial for the murder of his girlfriend with a cannon-like device.
U-T San Diego reports Judge Evan Kirvin said Wednesday the prosecution had presented enough evidence for Richard Dale Fox to stand trial on charges of murder, exploding a destructive device causing death and child endangerment.
The 40-year-old faces life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors say Fox was drinking with friends in the San Diego County town of Potrero when he set off the device, sending shrapnel into his trailer that killed 38-year-old Jeanette Ogara. They say Ogara was Fox’s girlfriend and the mother of his 4-year-old daughter.
Defense attorney Thomas Slattery called the death a freak accident.
Fox has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Wisconsin
State High Court rules in evidence destruction case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court says lower courts do not have the authority to order the destruction of presentence investigative reports.
The court ruled Thursday in a case of Brandon Melton, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to second-degree sexual assault of a child and theft, both felonies.
A Waukesha County circuit court ordered a presentence investigative report to assist in his sentencing. Melton disputed some of the information in the report, so the judge ordered that the first one be destroyed after the expiration of any time limits for appeal.
A state appeals court upheld that decision, but the Supreme Court on Thursday said courts don’t have the authority to order such reports to be destroyed.
The court says in unusual cases a corrected report can be prepared.

Illinois
Gun charge dropped after vote on new law

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A gun charge against a Champaign man has been dismissed after the Legislature overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s objections to the state’s new concealed-carry law this week.
Donnell L. Jackson had faced a charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after police arrested him in Springfield in December 2011 and found a gun in his sweatshirt during a pat-down.
The charge was dismissed Wednesday on a motion by Sangamon County prosecutors, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported.
“Now we have a concealed carry law, and people will have to follow it in Illinois,” said Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser.
Milhiser had resisted a previous attempt in February by Jackson’s attorney to have the charge dismissed. But he reversed course after the new legislation cleared its final obstacles this week with the vote by lawmakers and a mandate from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that formally found the old concealed-carry ban unconstitutional.
The federal court last year declared Illinois’ last-in-the-nation ban on concealed weapons to be unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to craft legislation allowing people to carry firearms. But the court had stayed its mandate until the law could be changed.
The law directs authorities to issue carry permits to applicants who have a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, pass a background check and undergo 16 hours of training. It will be months before the first carry permits can be issued, but Milhiser said the court mandate invalidated the law Jackson was accused of breaking.
Jackson had a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card at the time of his arrest.
“With the dismissal of Mr. Jackson’s case, we believe justice has finally been served,” said his attorney, Daniel Noll.

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