Murder case heading to Franklin Co. court

May 29, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - District Justice Larry Pentz Thursday sent a 1979 murder case against Michael Wayne McCormick to the Court of Common Pleas for trial.

A July 8 arraignment has been set for McCormick, 49, of Chambersburg, Pa.

McCormick, who is free on bond, is charged in the shooting of his friend, Alan Bennett Cosey, then 23, once in the chest with a reproduction antique pistol during an argument on March 28, 1979.

A Franklin County coroner ruled Cosey's death a suicide in June 1979 despite a letter of protest from then Waynesboro Police Chief Jude T. Walsh.

Walsh, now a prosecuting attorney with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Occupational Affairs in Harrisburg, Pa., said in his letter that evidence at the death scene showed Cosey could not have shot himself.


Walsh testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing that the hammer on the gun, a reproduction Civil War revolver, was resting on an unfired cartridge when found by police. With such a weapon, the cylinder could not have advanced to the next unfired round by itself after the trigger was pulled, he said.

Walsh also testified that the gun would not have ended up in Cosey's hand, as found by police at the scene, because of the weapon's heavy recoil.

Walsh was one of two state witnesses Thursday.

The case was reopened by Pennsylvania State Police. McCormick was charged with criminal homicide in February.

Trooper Mark Grove testified that police became interested in the case again after Cosey's widow, Vicki Lemmon, 42, of Chambersburg, complained to Dr. Harvey Shapiro, a Chambersburg psychiatrist who was treating her last year, that she never believed her husband killed himself.

The couple had been estranged for more than a year at the time of Cosey's death, according to testimony.

Grove said Shapiro told Kenneth L. Peiffer III, a local private investigator, who checked into the case. Peiffer told his father, Franklin County Coroner Kenneth L. Peiffer Jr., and the case was reopened.

Grove testified that McCormick told conflicting stories during interrogations in February.

At first McCormick told police that he and Cosey were arguing in Cosey's West Second Street apartment on the night of the shooting, according to testimony. He said both had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana.

According to McCormick, Cosey got the gun from his bedroom and said he wanted to die and that he wanted McCormick to help him, Grove testified.

Next, Grove said, McCormick told him that he struggled to get the gun from Cosey and that it went off. Later, McCormick said he decided to honor his friend's wish and pulled the trigger.

Public Defender Nancy M. Myers argued for dismissal, saying evidence in the case is the same as it was in 1979 and that prosecutors were trying to second-guess police who investigated the case.

"I'm not bound by someone's conclusions of 20 years ago," said Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson in his closing arguments. He said it is hard to believe today how authorities at the time concluded Cosey's death was a suicide, that by his own statement McCormick showed he intended to kill Cosey.

Beda Stouffer, Cosey's mother, and Lisa Conner, his sister, were among relatives in court Thursday.

"We just want to see justice done," Conner said. "I never really for a moment felt that Alan's death was a suicide," his mother said.

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