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Pre-trial hearings held in 1985 disappearance

February 27, 2001

Pre-trial hearings held in 1985 disappearance



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Two people charged in the disappearance of a Franklin County man more than 15 years ago were back in court Tuesday as their cases come closer to trial.

Joan Snyder Hall, 57, of 12850 Grant Shook Road in Greencastle, Pa., is charged with criminal conspiracy and criminal homicide in the disappearance of her former husband, Melvin Snyder, on May 25, 1985.

Ronald W. Harshman, 51, of 11807 Clearview Road, is charged with the first-degree murder of Snyder.

Both defendants had pre-trial hearings Tuesday on motions to suppress evidence.

Hall's attorney, Patrick Redding, is asking Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn to suppress four statements Hall made to police.

"Four statements were illegally gained" during the course of an interview by Pennsylvania State Police in May 1994, Redding said.

Franklin County District Attorney Jack Nelson and Redding questioned Trooper Terry McElhaney and Cpl. Wayne Shepherd at length Tuesday about the manner in which they conducted a 1994 polygraph test and interviewed Hall.

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Shepherd said Hall was always cooperative and was repeatedly advised he was not under arrest at the time and was free to leave.

Redding questioned Shepherd as to why Hall was not required to sign a waiver of her rights each time she spoke to police or why she was not always verbally advised of her rights before the interviews.

Because of time constraints, the hearing was continued to mid-March.

Van Horn also heard requests Tuesday from Harshman's attorney, David S. Keller.

Keller asked the court to allow statements from Snyder to be admitted during the trial, as well as police reports under certain conditions. He also asked for the exclusion of statements by Hall against Harshman during his trial.

Nelson agreed with the requests, but asked Van Horn to delay ruling on whether or not to exclude a shell casing from evidence.

Keller was seeking the removal of the shell casing from evidence because multiple people have claimed to finding the casing.

Nelson said he has a former state trooper who could provide additional evidence of its authenticity at the time of the trial.

Van Horn agreed to reserve ruling on the casing and approved Keller's other requests.

She also ordered Harshman's trial be continued until the May trial term, which begins May 14.

Both Hall and Harshman are free on bail.

According to court records, Harshman and Snyder worked at Grove Manufacturing and knew each other socially. In May 1984, Snyder and Harshman's wife began an affair.

State police allege Snyder, then 42, was shot and killed in his Antrim Township barn one year later.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hall told police she told Harshman her husband could be found unarmed in the barn the morning he disappeared. She also alleged to police that she saw Snyder's body in Harshman's basement the next day.

Snyder's body has never been found and neither has the alleged murder weapon, a .25-caliber pistol police allege Harshman bought two months before Snyder disappeared.

A break in the case came July 15, 1999, when state police went to Harshman's former home at 4230 Buchanan Trail West in Greencastle and found a spent .25-caliber shell casing about an inch under the ground.

A ballistics expert compared that with a casing found in Snyder's barn shortly after he disappeared and determined both had been fired from the same gun, according to the affidavit.

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