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Hall homicide case continued to September

May 08, 2001|By STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG - A Franklin County judge continued until September the case of a Greencastle woman who was scheduled to go to trial next week on charges of criminal homicide in the 1985 disappearance of her husband.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn granted the continuance Friday in the case against Joan Snyder Hall, 12850 Grant Shook Road.

Hall's attorney, Patrick Redding, filed for the continuance after Van Horn denied his motion to suppress some statements Hall made during interviews with Pennsylvania State Police in May 1994.

Van Horn heard testimony Feb. 23 and March 13 and ruled Thursday that Hall voluntarily made the statements and she would not suppress them.

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Hall, 57, is charged with criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy in the disappearance of her husband, Melvin E. Snyder, 15 years ago. Jury selection for her trial was to begin Monday.

In his request for a continuance, Redding wrote, "The ruling by the court was received today and the defense is unable to arrange for all appropriate witnesses to be present. Additionally, the defendant's expert is not expected to be available during this trial term."

Redding declined to comment further Monday.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 12.

In her ruling on the motion to suppress, Van Horn said self-incriminating statements Hall made to state police troopers on May 5, 23, 25 and 26, 1994, were voluntary during noncustodial interviews and admissible at trial.

The statements in question include Hall's admission that she told co-defendant Ronald W. Harshman when he could find Snyder alone and unarmed and that she later saw her husband's body in Harshman's basement, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Hall also contended she was not given bathroom breaks or anything to drink or eat during lengthy interviews at the police station. However, she is heard agreeing on audio tapes of the interviews that she was treated fairly and knew she was free to leave at any time.

"The court finds that the defendant's recollection of the circumstances surrounding the encounters that were memorialized on the same day the events occurred is more reliable than a defendant's personal memory of seven years later," Van Horn wrote in her decision. "Furthermore, the court cannot believe that the defendant was not given a restroom break, lunch or dinner during a seven-hour period ..."

Harshman, 52, of 11807 Clearview Road, Hagerstown, is charged with first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to begin July 9.

Snyder, 42, disappeared from his Antrim Township home on May 25, 1985, according to Pennsylvania State Police records. His pickup truck was discovered two days later near Baltimore, but his body was never found. He was declared legally dead in 1992.

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.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hall told police she was upset by the affair and informed Harshman of when Snyder could be found alone and unarmed.

Police said 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 not been found.

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