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Murder trial set for July

May 03, 2001

Murder trial set for July



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


A Hagerstown man charged with first-degree murder in the 1985 disappearance

of his former wife's lover faces trial this summer in Franklin County,

Pa.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Walker Wednesday postponed Ronald W. Harshman's trial until July 9 because the May trial term is full.

District Attorney Jack Nelson said he expects the trial, including jury selection, to last five days.

Harshman, 52, of 11807 Clearview Road, was charged in April 2000 with the first-degree murder of Melvin E. Snyder, 42, who disappeared from his Antrim Township home May 25, 1985, according to Pennsylvania State Police records.

Snyder's wife at the time, Joan Snyder - now Joan Snyder Hall, 57, of 12850 Grant Shook Road, Greencastle, Pa. - is also charged with criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy in the case. Her trial is scheduled to begin May 14.

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Melvin Snyder's pickup truck was discovered two days after his disappearance near Baltimore, but his body has never been found. He was declared legally dead in 1992.

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

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the case, Joan Snyder Hall told police she was upset by the affair and told Harshman what time Snyder could be found alone and unarmed. The affidavit also stated Hall told police she saw her husband's body in Harshman's basement.

Police said they have matched a .25-caliber shell casing found in Snyder's barn in 1985 with a shell casing found in 1999 an inch underground in the yard of Harshman's former home in Antrim Township.

A .25-caliber handgun Harshman purchased two months before Snyder disappeared has never been found, according to court records.

In a motion this winter, Harshman's attorney, David S. Keller, asked Judge Carol Van Horn to allow statements from Snyder to be admitted during the trial, as well as certain police reports. He also asked for the exclusion of statements by Hall against Harshman during his trial.

Van Horn approved the requests, but delayed ruling on the removal of one casing from evidence because there is a question as to who found it.

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

Harshman is free on bond.

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