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Pa. killer gets life sentence

June 09, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Apologizing Wednesday to the family and friends of Wendy Schuchman, Kevin J. Barrett was sentenced in Franklin County Court to life in state prison for her death.

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"I would gladly give my life for Wendy's," Barrett said at the sentencing hearing.

Barrett, 35, of 627 Siloam Road, received the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder from Judge Richard J. Walsh. He was convicted on April 22 following a four-day jury trial.

Early on the morning of Sept. 7, 1997, Schuchman, 32, of 136 Kennedy St., was shot and killed by two rounds fired from a 12-gauge shotgun in the parking lot of Siggy's Food & Spirits, 454 Norland Ave., according to court records. Barrett then shot himself in the chest.

At trial, defense attorneys Stephen D. Kulla and Eric J. Weisbrod argued that Barrett was too intoxicated from cocaine and marijuana to form a specific intent to kill. They asked that the jury convict him of third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

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Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams argued during the trial that Barrett acted with premeditation in killing his former girlfriend.

After the sentencing, Kulla handed Walsh a motion asking for a new trial.

"We believe the court erred by allowing the jury to take the gun into the jury deliberation chamber right before the verdict," Kulla said later. He said that amounted to allowing the jury to conduct its own investigation.

"Two jurors changed their position after the gun was brought in," Kulla said.

He said any demonstration of the pump-action shotgun should have taken place in the courtroom with the defense having an opportunity to offer its own evidence.

After the verdict, jury foreman Danny Young said the jury asked for a clarification on the difference between first- and third-degree murder and wanted to examine the weapon.

He said his vote for first-degree murder was based on the fact that Schuchman was shot twice.

Kulla said there could be other issues raised if the case is appealed to the Superior Court.

After the sentencing, Barrett's brother, Steve, said many of those who knew his brother and Schuchman and testified at the trial had drug and alcohol problems.

"I hope they all take a big lesson from what tinkering with drugs and alcohol can do," Steve Barrett said.

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