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Killer's latest appeal denied

June 17, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The latest appeal by convicted murderer Gary Lee Rock was dismissed Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Rock, 44, formerly of Fayetteville, Pa., was convicted in 1978 of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his neighbor, Wilbur Brookens, and Fayetteville Fire Chief James W. Cutchall on July 3, 1977.

He also was convicted of four counts of attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault in his second trial, held in Franklin County Court in 1985.

In 1978 and 1985, juries rejected Rock's insanity defense.

According to Pennsylvania State Police records, Rock set his cabin on fire and then fired on Brookens, Cutchall and other firefighters who responded to the scene.

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At a 1998 Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing before Franklin County Judge Richard J. Walsh, Rock asked the court to resentence him for third-degree murder or set him free.

The petition claimed his attorney at the second trial failed "to file a pretrial motion on double jeopardy grounds based upon the concealment of exculpatory evidence" at his first trial.

Rock's petition claimed evidence of gasoline trails leading to the cabin was "used to rebut the defendant's insanity defense and his claim that he lacked intent" at the time of the shootings.

Walsh dismissed Rock's petition for relief because it was not filed in a timely fashion. The Superior Court agreed.

The Post-Conviction Relief Act was amended on Jan. 16, 1996, giving defendants convicted before then another year to file petitions.

"That year was up in January 1997, and he didn't file his petition until May 1997," District Attorney John F. Nelson said.

Walsh and the Superior Court agreed that Rock's petition did not fit any of three exceptions to the deadline provided under the amended act.

Nelson said the inconsistencies with evidence about soil samples relating to burn patterns was discovered between the first and second trials. He said it was irrelevant.

"We didn't introduce the evidence at the second trial," he said.

Rock is serving consecutive life sentences in state prison.

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