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Man charged in Pa. slaying

August 29, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Paul Devoe said he needed another car, so he killed Betty Jane Dehart and took hers.

That was the motive for the slaying of the 81-year-old great-great grandmother who was shot in her mobile home near State Line, Pa., Sunday, according to Pennsylvania State Police. Devoe, 43, a suspect in five murders in Texas, was charged Wednesday with criminal homicide and felony counts of robbery, burglary and theft, police said.

"He was having car problems," Trooper Ed Asbury said during an afternoon press conference at the Chambersburg barracks. While driving a Saturn station wagon belonging to one of the victims in Texas, Devoe crossed the Maryland-Pennsylvania border and got off Interstate 81 to look for a vehicle, Asbury said.

Devoe drove onto North Young Road in Antrim Township and saw Dehart sitting on her porch and her car in the driveway, according to the affidavit of probable cause. When Devoe got to the end of the dead end road, he turned around, drove back and pulled into Dehart's driveway.

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Devoe, who lived near Austin, Texas, was taken into custody Monday in Shirley, N.Y., by the U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. At the house where he was arrested was a 2006 Hyundai registered to Dehart. The Marshals Service contacted state police, who went to her home and found Dehart's body and the station wagon from Texas.

Based on Devoe's statement to detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department, Dehart was suspicious when Devoe pulled into her driveway and attempted to get inside her house and close the door. Devoe forced his way inside, Asbury said.

"The defendant stated that as he walked toward the lady, she got up and ran in the house ... as he pulled out his gun, the lady started to scream," the affidavit stated. Devoe told police that after forcing his way inside, he chased Dehart to the bedroom and shot her.

Devoe was "afraid she would alert neighbors," the affidavit stated, although noise from interstate traffic less than 100 yards from her home is loud and almost constant. Devoe took the keys to her car and $6 to $8 in cash and drove to New York, police said.

Police said a .380-caliber handgun Devoe had Monday is believed to have been used in the shootings.

Trooper Mark Grove, one of two state police investigators who went to New York to speak with Devoe, was asked if he expressed any regrets over Dehart's death.

"No," Grove said.

Despite one neighbor who said he saw a white station wagon drive down North Young Road Saturday afternoon and another that thought he heard a gunshot that night, Asbury said Dehart was killed late Sunday morning or early afternoon.

"The chain of events probably happened very, very quickly," Asbury said. There was no sign of a struggle, he said.

Though she lived independently and still did yard chores, Dehart likely weighed less than 100 pounds, neighbor and friend Byron Breese said Tuesday. Cognizant of her own safety, the retired seamstress kept both her screen door and front door locked when she was inside, he said.

While charges were filed Wednesday, District Attorney John F. Nelson said it could be "many, many months" before Pennsylvania prosecutes Devoe.

"Texas has charges filed and he was picked up in New York on their fugitive warrant," Nelson said. Pennsylvania would not get custody of Devoe until Texas completes its criminal proceedings, he said.

The robbery, burglary and theft charges filed against Devoe could constitute aggravating circumstances, allowing the prosecution to seek the death penalty, Nelson said. A notice of aggravating circumstances, however, does not have to be filed until mandatory arraignment.

Devoe is a suspect in the slayings of former girlfriend Paula Griffith; her 15-year-old daughter, Haylie Marie Faulkner; Griffith's 48-year-old boyfriend, Jay Feltner; and 17-year-old Danielle Hensley, according to authorities in Texas. The four bodies were discovered in a Jonestown, Texas, home Sunday, according to the Travis County Sheriff's Office.

He also was charged in the death Friday of bartender Michael Allred in Marble Falls, Texas, according to the Marshals Service.

"The investigators here with the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force were up all night and into Monday doing interviews and going through his personal belongings," Supervisory U.S. Marshal Hector Gomez said.

Knowing his ties to New York, investigators came up with a list of addresses for their New York counterparts to check, Gomez said.

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