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DA expresses frustration waiting for poisoner's sentence

January 19, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A woman convicted of trying to poison her husband with anti-freeze was not sentenced Wednesday, to the displeasure of Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson and Judge Richard J. Walsh.

"I think I'm being played for the fool and so is the court," Nelson told Walsh during the sentencing hearing for Linda Turner Reasner.

Nelson objected to any further delay in the sentencing of the 55-year-old Orrstown, Pa., woman, who was in court to be sentenced for attempted homicide and aggravated assault.

Public Defender Robert J. Trambley requested a continuance until a mental health evaluation of Reasner is completed. Trambley accepted blame for the latest delay, noting that a psychiatrist had not completed the report because of his office's failure to get hospital records regarding Reasner from South Carolina.

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Reasner was granted several continuances before pleading guilty to the first-degree felonies on Aug. 27, without ever having the evaluation done, Nelson said.

It wasn't until September that the defense formally requested the court to appoint a psychiatrist for the evaluation, Nelson said.

"It was my recollection that I ordered a psychological evaluation," Walsh said.

Despite the failure of the defense to get the evaluation completed, Walsh granted the continuance to Wednesday, Feb. 16.

"How can I possibly mete out punishment unless I know what's going on in this person's head?" Walsh said.

Walsh told Trambley he would speak to the South Carolina hospital officials personally if there were any holdups in getting the records to the psychiatrist.

According to court records, Pennsylvania State Police charged Reasner with two counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault for twice trying to poison her husband James Reasner. Police said she put anti-freeze in his iced tea in August 1997 and again in September 1998.

In both cases James Reasner was hospitalized with kidney failure. He and some family members were in court Wednesday for the sentencing.

Walsh offered them a chance to address the court so that they would not have to return next month. They indicated they would wait.

Linda Reasner faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge.

James Reasner declined to comment on the case after the continuance was granted.

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