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Witness says he lied in testimony at Ronald Harshman's murder trial

Keith Granlun testified 11 years ago that he was told where the defendant dumped the body of Melvin Elwood Snyder

September 06, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A Maugansville man who testified 11 years ago that Ronald Harshman told him where he dumped a body claimed in court Thursday that he lied.

“You’ve never spoken to (Harshman) in your life?” an attorney asked.

“No, I haven’t,” Keith Granlun said.

As Harshman’s attorney seeks a new trial, he is trying to demonstrate witnesses perjured themselves in July 2001 in exchange for special consideration from the Franklin County (Pa.) District Attorney’s office.

Harshman was convicted of first-degree murder in the presumed death of Melvin Elwood Snyder, whose body was never found.

Granlun told a judge during Thursday’s Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing that he was freed from custody two hours after testifying in the Harshman trial. He had been incarcerated on driving under the influence and unsworn falsification charges.

Granlun said he later talked to then-District Attorney Jack Nelson after receiving a call from the probation department about fines.

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“I said, ‘I thought this was supposed to go away.’ ... (Nelson made a phone call) and said, ‘Everything is done with. It’ll go away,’” Granlun testified, saying that he never was asked for court fees again.

Assistant District Attorney Zachary Mills poked at Granlun’s credibility.

“It’s your testimony today you committed perjury in a murder trial to avoid $1,000 worth of fines and costs?” Mills asked.

Granlun interjected as Mills was asking the question and said, “Yeah, I did.”

Granlun appeared to grow agitated as he explained he feared a lengthened jail sentence if he did not go through with his 2001 testimony against Harshman. He said he tried to tell a prior defense attorney and an investigator about the lies.

“Do you think I want to do this today?” he asked Mills.

When urging Judge Douglas Herman to take Granlun’s claims seriously, defense attorney Chris Sheffield said the man came to court for the hearing under the threat of being prosecuted for perjury.

Another witness lined up for the hearing asserted Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination through his lawyer. That man, too, testified during the murder trial about statements Harshman allegedly made while incarcerated.

Sheffield said Post-Conviction Relief Act hearings are not about whether Harshman is innocent or guilty.

Rather, he said, the question is whether the former Hagerstown man received a fair trial.

Court documents state Harshman’s wife, Teresa, had an affair with Snyder beginning in May 1984. They left the state briefly but reconciled with their respective spouses upon their return.

Harshman and Teresa Harshman Young later divorced.

“The victim and his wife continued to live together following their reconciliation until the victim’s disappearance on the last Saturday in May 1985, the anniversary of initiation of his intimate relationship with Ronald Harshman’s wife,” an affidavit of probable cause states.

Attorneys for both sides are expected to file briefs in coming weeks about additional evidence and testimony. In listing potential witnesses, Mills said he might call Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Angela Krom regarding her time as an assistant district attorney.

Granlun referenced a female assistant who heard some of his conversations with Nelson, who died in 2009.

“The commonwealth anticipates calling former First Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom,” Mills said when listing possible witnesses.

Sheffield questioned Krom being on the list.

“I don’t recall (Granlun specifically) referencing her. The commonwealth can prove it was her when Keith Granlun can’t?” he asked.

Krom walked through the courtroom toward her office when Granlun was on the stand. Her presence went unacknowledged.

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