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Woman sentenced in mall shooting

June 17, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg woman is facing up to 40 years in state prison after pleading guilty Thursday to shooting her ex-husband twice at point-blank range last year at the Chambersburg Mall.

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Franklin County Judge John R. Walker asked Valerie Moraites, 44, what kind of a weapon she used. She told him it was a .22-caliber handgun.

"If I was going out to shoot someone, I'd get a bigger caliber than a .22," Walker said.

Before the sentencing, Moraites told Walker her ex-husband, Stephen C. Moraites, had moved back to the area and lived just a few blocks away.

"I had a lot of bitter feelings from when we had our divorce," she said. "I started to get ideas about shooting him."

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Stephen Moraites, of 806 Woodlawn Drive, was shot twice while in the center court of the mall in Greene Township at 1:30 p.m. on April 24, 1998, according to Pennsylvania State Police. He was at the mall with family members when he was shot.

Valerie Moraites surrendered to mall security moments after the shooting, according to state police records.

Moraites said she had no plans to shoot her former husband that day. She said she had gone to the mall to return a purchase when she saw her ex-husband, from whom she'd been divorced for more than a decade.

She was not armed at the time but had a handgun in her car, she said.

"I went out to my car and got it and I found him and shot him," she testified.

Moraites said she was "right in front of him" when she shot him in the shoulder and stomach.

In exchange for the plea agreement, District Attorney John F. Nelson said two charges of aggravated assault were being dismissed. Because of the use of a deadly weapon in the assault, she will have to spend a minimum of five years in prison.

Nelson said the maximum sentence for attempted homicide is 40 years. Moraites has been in Franklin County Prison since the shooting.

"Mrs. Moraites is remorseful for the harm she has caused Mr. Moraites and his family," defense attorney Colleen Kennedy Rettig said after the hearing.

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