Pa. man convicted of murder seeks new trial, lesser sentence

September 13, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A former Chambersburg man on death row appeared in the Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas again Thursday as he seeks a new trial or lesser sentence.

In 2000, Michael Singley, now 36, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted homicide, rape, criminal trespassing and theft. He is incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in Greene County, Pa.

Singley filed a handwritten Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition in August 2006. In it, he claims several points, including that his guilty pleas were unlawfully induced.

Singley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 1998 stabbing death of Christine Rohrer, the wife of his cousin Travis Rohrer. He also pleaded guilty to murder generally in the death of the Rohrers’ neighbor, James Gilliam, leaving the degree of guilt to be determined by Judge Douglas Herman in a September 2000 hearing.

A jury sentenced Singley to the death penalty for the murder of Christine Rohrer and life in prison for the murder of Gilliam. Herman sentenced him to an additional 46 to 94 years in prison on the other counts, according to published reports.

Herman said in court Thursday the PCRA status conference was the first in some time because prosecutors and defense attorneys had been attempting to resolve some of the issues outside a courtroom.

At the status conference, the defense renewed its request for Singley to submit to medical exams at the University of Pennsylvania. The Franklin County District Attorney’s Office has 30 days to submit a response if it wishes to fight that motion.

Singley was at one time scheduled for lethal injection, but received a stay of execution.

Singley went to the Elder Street home of Travis and Christine Rohrer on the night of Nov. 3, 1998, where he first raped and killed Christine Rohrer. He then shot and stabbed Travis Rohrer when he returned to the Chambersburg home, according to testimony during the death penalty phase of his case.

As Singley left the house, he shot and killed Gilliam, who was returning to his half of the duplex. Singley also fired at, but missed, Gilliam’s girlfriend.

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