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Man gets life for murder conviction

October 31, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County judge denied a defendant's motion asking him to remove himself from the case and then sentenced convicted murderer Larry Gene Hull to life in prison Wednesday.

Hull wrote the motion, which asked Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Walsh to remove himself from the case because Walsh once worked for a law firm assisting in Hull's defense almost 20 years ago.

Hull, 54, was first convicted in 1979 of shooting his friend Lloyd Shatzer, of St. Thomas, Pa., in February 1975 and dumping his body down a well.

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In August 1999, he was granted a new trial when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third District overturned his first-degree murder conviction, saying he had ineffective counsel at a competency hearing.

The new trial was held last December with closing arguments in June after Walsh reviewed documents and transcripts from the original trial. He found Hull guilty last month in a written ruling.

Walsh said throughout the proceedings he continually offered to recuse himself if Hull felt there was any conflict of interest.

"It would be an extraordinary circumstance to approve the motion, primarily because the sentence is a foregone conclusion," Walsh said. "The mere replacement of me by another judge would make no difference in today's proceedings."

District Attorney Jack Nelson agreed.

"There is only one sentence that can be imposed," he said.

Under state guidelines, life in prison is a mandatory sentence.

Hull has been housed in the Franklin County Prison since he was granted a new trial in 1999, but he will now be moved to a state prison.

After reading the sentencing order Wednesday, Walsh commended Hull on his demeanor in the court throughout the proceedings, calling him "courteous and polite."

"I personally have found you to be a kind and gentle man," Walsh said, painting a different picture of the man who 27 years ago was involved in a drunken argument with the victim the night of the murder.

Hull has said he was drinking heavily and blacked out before shooting Shatzer twice in the chest with a .22-caliber rifle, possibly over the victim attacking Hull's dog with a pipe, according to court records.

According to trial testimony, Hull had a lengthy history of psychiatric disorders, but Nelson argued that Hull intended to kill Shatzer and knew what he was doing was wrong, which is why he hid the body in a well.

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