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Murder trial due to start in March

January 28, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The postponement of a pre-trial conference this week is not expected to delay the trial of a St. Thomas, Pa., woman charged in the shooting death of a veterans post commander.

Sally A. Sellers is expected to go to trial in Franklin County Court the week of March 24, said T.R. Williams, the Franklin County assistant district attorney prosecuting the case.

The pre-trial conference slated for Friday has been moved to Feb. 14 at 10:30 a.m. before Judge Carol Van Horn so that Williams can attend a Project Safe Neighborhoods national conference.

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The hearing was scheduled in November when Van Horn agreed to allow Sellers out of her no contest plea agreement.

Sellers agreed to plea to a lesser charge in August. 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.

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

In court, however, Sellers swore under oath she was withdrawing her plea because she is innocent.

As part of the agreement, Sellers would have served seven to 25 years in state prison and would not be 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.

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

Police have 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, according to court records.

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