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Former Chambersburg man drops appeals to execution

December 01, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Ten years after he killed two people in Chambersburg, Michael B. Singley has requested that his appeals be dropped so the state can "perform it's (sic) duty and Execute me by way of Lethal Injection as soon as legally possible."

Singley last week filed a motion in Franklin County Court to withdraw his Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition, which included his request that he be executed for the 1998 killings of his cousin's wife and her next-door neighbor on Elder Street.

Singley, 32, formerly of Chambersburg and now an inmate at the State Correctional Institute in Greene County, Pa., was the last person to receive the death penalty in Franklin County. He pleaded guilty in 2000 to first-degree murder and rape in the Nov. 3, 1998, stabbing death of Christine Rohrer, 23, and murder in the shooting of her neighbor, 39-year-old James Gilliam.

In a later degree of guilt hearing, Judge Douglas W. Herman also found Singley guilty of first-degree murder in Gilliam's death. In January 2001, a penalty hearing was held in which a jury sentenced Singley to death.

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Singley also shot and stabbed his cousin, Travis Rohrer, and fired at Gilliam's girlfriend in the incident, according to police and court records.

"It has been ten years since my Arrest for Capital Murder. I was sentenced to death in 2001," Singley wrote in the one-page motion. He wrote that the Court of Common Pleas has upheld the guilty pleas and the death sentence, and ruled against his post-sentence motions.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also affirmed the convictions and sentence on Feb. 24, 2005, Singley wrote. The motion requests that his Jan. 8, 2007, PCRA petition be withdrawn. Further, Singley asks Herman for a competency hearing.

"I wish to wave (sic) all my Appellate Rights, both State & Federal Appeals," Singley wrote.

The last person executed in Pennsylvania was Gary Heidnik, who was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999. Heidnik was convicted in 1988 of murdering two women in Philadelphia.

The attorney who has been handling Singley's appeals, Helen Marino of the Capital Habeas Corpus Unit of the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was out of her office Monday.

"He's appealing not just the sentences," Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Laura Kerstetter said of the PCRA petition Singley is now seeking to withdraw. The motion also claims ineffective assistance of trial counsel for allowing him to enter the guilty pleas, she said.

Marino's PCRA petition also claimed "substantial and significant indicators of ... severe mental illness" in Singley at the time the pleas were entered.

"I guess we wait to see if Judge Herman grants the competency hearing," Kerstetter said when asked about the prosecution's next move.

The only other person on death row in Pennsylvania for murders committed in Franklin County is Albert Ezron, who was convicted in the December 1996 deaths of his estranged wife and stepdaughter.

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