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Homicide cases pushed back in Pa.

November 06, 2000

Homicide cases pushed back in Pa.



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three Franklin County homicide cases scheduled for this month's trial term have been postponed until January, court records show.

Cases involving Joan Snyder Hall, Larry Hull and Jonna Johnson have all been granted continuances until January. Trials and jury selection in the cases could have begun as early as next week in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Hall, 56, of 12850 Grant Shook Road in Greencastle, Pa., is charged with criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy in the disappearance of her husband 15 years ago.

In April, Pennsylvania State Police charged Hall and Ronald W. Harshman with the May 25, 1985, disappearance of Melvin E. Snyder. His pickup truck was discovered two days later near Baltimore, but his body was never found, according to police.

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Police allege Hall told Harshman, whose wife was having an affair with Snyder, her husband would be in the barn alone and unarmed the morning he disappeared. Police allege they have matched a .25-caliber shell casing found in Snyder's barn in 1985 with a shell found an inch underground in the yard of Harshman's former home in Antrim Township in 1999. A .25-caliber handgun Harshman purchased two months before Snyder disappeared has never been found.

Hall waived her pretrial hearing this summer and is awaiting trial, now on hold until at least January.

Harshman is free on bail. No trial date has been sent.

Hull's case has been continued several times since he was granted a new trial by the U.S. Court of Appeals more than a year ago.

The St. Thomas, Pa., man has spent 25 years behind bars in the shooting death of his friend, Lloyd Shatzer of St. Thomas. Shatzer was shot with a rifle and his body dumped down a well.

Hull spent three years in a state mental hospital before he was judged competent to stand trial. He must complete a mental health evaluation before new criminal proceedings can begin against him, according to the 1999 appeals court decision.

Johnson, 32, of 405 Philadelphia Ave., Apt. A, in Chambersburg, could become the first woman in the county's history to face the death penalty if she is convicted of criminal homicide for the shooting death of a veterans post commander in June.

Johnson is charged with criminal homicide and two counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on June 11, three people were shot at the Veterans of the Vietnam War Post, 1571 S. Main St., according to borough police records. The post's vice commander, Robert E. Tucker, 49, of Chambersburg, was found behind the building, dead of a single gunshot wound to the head.

Inside the building, Kimberly K. Bigler, 37, and William B. Groff Jr., 36, of Fayetteville, Pa., were also shot, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Johnson was a member of the post and knew the three victims.

Police have not indicated a motive for the shooting and no other suspects have been named.

Because of the aggravated circumstances involved, that a grave risk of death to Bigler and Groff was knowingly created, Johnson is eligible for the death penalty.

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