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Pa. woman withdraws her plea in slaying

A judge allowed Sally A. Sellers, charged in the 2000 slaying of a veterans post commander, to withdraw a no contest plea.

A judge allowed Sally A. Sellers, charged in the 2000 slaying of a veterans post commander, to withdraw a no contest plea.

November 22, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG - A woman charged in the 2000 slaying of a veterans post commander was allowed to withdraw her no contest plea Thursday and now faces a March trial.

Sally A. Sellers, of St. Thomas, Pa., had agreed in August to plead to a lesser charge. But days before she was to be sentenced on one count of criminal conspiracy to commit third-degree murder in September, she fired her attorney and filed her own motion to withdraw the plea agreement.

Sellers was scheduled to tell Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn whether she wanted to proceed with a motion to withdraw her plea Nov. 15 but asked for extra time to talk it over with her family. Sellers said Thursday she wanted to pursue the motion, and Van Horn granted the request.

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In an affidavit signed by Sellers, she said on Aug. 22 she was coerced by former defense attorney Mike Toms and Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams "under threat and duress" into entering the plea.

On Thursday, Sellers swore under oath she was withdrawing her plea because she is innocent.

"I am fully aware of the charges," she said.

Williams said Sellers entered the plea voluntarily, but he did not oppose her motion.

"The offer for a plea will not be the same again, and it will not get any better," he said.

As part of the agreement, Sellers would have served seven to 25 years in state prison and would not have been tried on the other charges she faced, including criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery and two counts of criminal attempt homicide, court records show.

If convicted on all counts, Sellers could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sellers is now slated for a jury trial in March. Van Horn will meet again Jan. 31 with Williams and defense attorney H. Anthony Adams.

Prior to the plea agreement, Sellers was scheduled to stand trial in late September in the June 11, 2000, shootings at the Vietnam Veterans Post Club in Chambersburg.

Police said that Sellers and co-defendant Jonna M. Johnson were attempting to rob the club and fatally shot Robert Tucker and wounded employees Kimberly Bigger and William Groff.

Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of criminal attempt homicide in November. She is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Johnson confessed to the shootings but later tried to convince police that Sellers entered the club after it closed and shot Groff and Bigler while standing behind her.

Both women were members of the post and involved in a romantic relationship. They were planning to rob the post after closing and buy a mobile home together, court records allege.

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