Eastern Pennsylvania
Victims of the State

Exclusive of Philadelphia
21 Cases

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County:   Berks   Bucks   Chester   Delaware

 Lackawanna   Lancaster   Lehigh   Monroe

 Montgomery   Northampton

Berks County, PA
Samuel Greason
July 2, 1901 (Stouchsburg)

Samuel Greason was sentenced to death for the murder of John Edwards, a 46-year-old farmer.  Edwards' body was found on July 4, 1901 in an empty cistern on his property in Stouchsburg.  His head had been terribly gashed with a knife.  Greason, a black man, was convicted of his murder after the victim's wife, Kate Edwards, identified him as an accomplice in the murder.  Greason and Mrs. Edwards were paramours.  Shortly before their scheduled executions, Edwards confessed to committing the murder alone.  Edwards was apparently pregnant with Greason's child at the time of the murder, as she gave birth to a mixed race daughter while in custody.  Greason was cleared and released in 1906.  (Google) (News Articles)

Bucks County, PA
Michael Dirago
Apr 16, 1985

Michael Dirago was convicted in 1991 of the 1985 murder of his 23-year-old girlfriend, Yvonne Davi.  Davi's body had been found near the Delaware River.  The conviction was secured by John Hall, a career prison informant and star witness who unexpectedly came forward just a few days before Dirago's then scheduled trial in Bucks County, PA.  Hall said Dirago told him about the crime when they were both in the Bucks County Jail.

Hall's testimony placed the murder on the New Jersey side of the bridge on which, he claimed, the victim had been killed.  Dirago was actually convicted in Burlington County, NJ, but only Hall's testimony places the murder there.  Hall gave a riveting account of the murder on the bridge, and of the victim gurgling as she died.  C. Theodore Fritsch, then the chief deputy DA of Bucks County, wrote that Hall's “unsolicited cooperation,” had changed the case from one with a “rather slim” chance of conviction to a “strong one from the prosecution standpoint.”  Howard Barman, then deputy attorney general of New Jersey wrote that Hall was “a remarkable person” who, but for an alcohol problem, “would probably be a significant member of society.”  (Google) (City Paper)  [3/08]

Bucks County, PA
Frank Chester
Dec 14, 1987 (Tullytown)

Frank Chester was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Anthony Milano.  Chester, 19, and a friend, Rick Laird were at a Tullytown bar where they met Milano.  Laird, Chester, and Milano then left the bar.  While on the way to a friend's house, Laird, drunk and strung out on drugs, lost his temper when Milano wanted to go home.  In a fit of rage, Laird dragged Milano to a nearby wooded area off of Rt. 13 and knifed him in the throat.  Milano was soon dead.  Chester says he saw the murder as it was happening and ran through the woods to a friend's house, shaken by what he witnessed.

After the murder, Chester cooperated with the police.  He produced the clothes he was wearing at the time (which had not one drop of Milano's blood on them), and gave the police the names of all his friends and the patrons in the bar.  He even submitted to a lie detector test, which he passed with flying colors.  Laird had a previous arrest history for violent behavior.

Milano was a gay man who was learning to accept his identity.  When the DA learned this fact, he used Milano's homosexuality as the cause of his death.  Laird and Chester were depicted as hate mongers.  The press picked up on the DA's depiction and joined in portraying the two as evil gay bashers.  The fact that Milano just happened to be gay did not enter the picture.  Both Laird and Chester landed on death row.  Laird has exonerated Chester from any responsibility for the murder.  (Source)  [2/07]

Chester County, PA
Dale Brison
July 14, 1990

Dale Brison was convicted of raping a 37-year-old woman and sentenced to 18 to 42 years imprisonment.  The victim identified Brison at trial.  DNA tests exonerated him after he served 3 1/2 years of his sentence.  (IP) (DNA)  [8/05]

Chester County, PA
Wade Evan Deemer
Aug 24, 2002

Wade Evan Deemer hanged himself in a West Chester police station after being arrested for a rape he did not commit.  He did not have his bipolar medication with him.  DNA testing conducted after his death excluded him as the rapist.  (FJDB)  [7/05]

Delaware County, PA
Nick Yarris
Dec 16, 1981

Nicholas J. Yarris was sentenced to death for the murder of Linda Mae Craig.  Four days after the murder, Yarris was arrested miles away from the crime scene after an altercation with a Chester policeman during a traffic stop.  Yarris was high on methamphetamine at the time of his arrest and forced to go through withdrawal “cold turkey.”  Desperate to get out, Yarris tried to obtain special treatment from police by claiming a former associate he thought was dead had kidnapped, raped, and killed Linda Mae Craig, a murder victim he read about in the newspaper.  The former associate was a drug dealer who Yarris thought had overdosed.  Yarris's plan went awry when the associate was located still alive with an airtight alibi – his brother had overdosed.

Police told other inmates that Yarris was a snitch.  Inmates then regularly beat and tortured Yarris for days.  In order to escape the beatings, he suggested to police that he may have participated in the crime, but was not the murderer.  The beatings stopped, and police charged Yarris with murder.  A fellow inmate, Charles Cataleno, began giving false information about Yarris in exchange for conjugal visits and a sentencing deal.  This inmate later testified against Yarris at trial.  Yarris's alleged motive was that he was angry with his ex-girlfriend, and the victim allegedly looked like her.  Tests on the semen left by the killer indicated the presence of B+ antigens, suggesting that the killer's blood type was B+.  Yarris shared this blood type along with 15% of the population.  However the victim's husband also had a B+ blood type.  During the investigation, he stated that he had sexual intercourse his wife the night before her murder.  When it became clear that Yarris was a suspect, the husband claimed to have worn a condom that night, even though he and his wife were incapable of having children.  The prosecution failed to do other tests on the semen which might have eliminated Yarris as a suspect.

Yarris was the first American to request DNA testing which he did in Mar. 1988.  He faced years of obstruction from the prosecution and the courts, but eventually in 2004 became the 140th American convict to be exonerated by DNA tests.  Yarris currently resides in the UK and has authored a 2008 book there entitled Seven Days to Live.  (IP) (Post-Gazette) (Justice: Denied) (DPI)  [9/05]

Delaware County, PA
H. Beatty Chadwick
Apr 1995

In July 1994 a court ordered H. Beatty Chadwick to deposit $2.5 million into a court bank account for use in his divorce settlement.  Chadwick contended that he did not have the money.  In 1990 he had invested in a limited partnership called Maison Blanche run from the British territory of Gibraltar.  The partnership invested in European real estate.  Chadwick said the investment made him liable for $2.75 million if the Maison Blanche partners ever issued a capital call.  Chadwick says a capital call came in January 1993, two months after his wife filed for divorce.

Forensic accountants traced a $2.502 million transfer of funds from Chadwick to the partnership in Gibraltar.  They said some of the money briefly returned to accounts in the United States before going to Luxembourg and Panama.  However, accountants could produce no proof that any part of the $2.5 million still belonged to Chadwick.  In April 1995 Chadwick was imprisoned on a civil contempt charge to coerce him into producing the missing funds.

After more than a decade of imprisonment, Chadwick's attorney noted that if Chadwick had been convicted of stealing the money, he could have completed the maximum seven-year sentence years ago.  The attorney also compared the “missing” money to Saddam Hussein's “missing” weapons of mass destruction.  In July 2009 a judge freed Chadwick after Chadwick had been imprisoned for more than 14 years.  The judge noted that Chadwick's incarceration had lost its coercive effect.  He added he agreed with previous court rulings that Chadwick “had the ability to comply with the court order ... but that he had willfully refused to do so.”

Chadwick insisted that he was unable to pay the money and said the law should be written so people in his situation can have a jury decide if they are capable of complying with court orders. He said there also ought to be time limits on jailing people for contempt, adding that there is an 18-month limit in the federal courts for refusing to testify before a grand jury.  “There's no question about whether they're able to do it – everybody's able to testify.  But in my case, of course, there's a question: Was I able?” he said.  (CJA)  [8/09]

Delaware County, PA
Rickie Jackson
Sept 1997 (Upper Darby)

Richard C. Jackson was convicted of the murder of 38-year-old Alvin Davis, his friend and former gay lover.  Jackson was a hairdresser who resided in West Philadelphia.  Davis was stabbed to death and his body was found nine days later in his second floor apartment at 422 Long Lane in Upper Darby.
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Delaware County, PA
Ronald Lewis
Mar 2, 1998 (Chester)

Ronald Winston Lewis was convicted of murdering his 5-month old son, Shirron Lewis, by shaking him.  Shirron had been born premature and required a breathing monitor and as many as 10 medications to survive.  Lewis and Shirron's mother, Jackie Allen, had already lost another child, Darius Lewis, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when he was nine days old.  Darius was born with a heart defect.  Shirron reportedly had seizures after he was born and Allen wondered if the hospital released him too soon.  Lewis is the father of at least nine children.
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Delaware County, PA
Robert Rivera
Aug 10, 1999

Robert Norman Rivera was convicted in 2002 of murdering his 20-month-old daughter, Katelyn Rivera.  On Aug. 10, 1999, Robert picked up Katelyn at her day care in Boothwyn, PA, took her to the zoo, to a fast-food restaurant, and to other places.  Technically, Aug. 10 was not a scheduled day for Robert to have custody of Katelyn.  Robert then repeatedly tried to return her to her mother, Jennifer Helton, but Helton refused to take her.  Apparently, Helton wanted greater custody rights and wanted to prolong Rivera's care of her so she could argue that he did not return her.  Later that night Rivera took Katelyn to a tourist location (Longwood Gardens) and while there said he met a couple and ended up giving them custody of Katelyn as he had no money to continue caring for her.
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Lackawanna County, PA
Christopher DiStefano
Apr 5, 1996

Christopher DiStefano was convicted of the murder of his former high school girlfriend, Christine Burgerhoff, 24, of Eynon.  Burgerhoff's nude body was found in a parking lot off Keyser Avenue in Scranton on April 6, 1996.  Police said she was killed hours earlier at the Reflex Center in Clarks Summit, where she worked.  Police labeled the Reflex Center a house of prostitution masquerading as a massage parlor.  After an 11-hour interrogation filled with promises of leniency and direct and implied threats of harm, DiStefano signed a confession written by detectives.  Following his arrest, he languished in jail until he was convicted of third degree murder in Feb. 2000.  He was sentenced to 15 to 40 years in prison.  In 2001, the PA Superior Court reversed his conviction on the grounds that his confession was coerced.  The state could not realistically retry him without a confession, but they got him to plead no contest to misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.  The case against DiStefano was unusual in that it began as a capital case, but ended as a misdemeanor case.

DiStefano has since published a well-reviewed book about his case entitled Anything You Say: The True Story of One Man's Ordeal With A Derailed Murder Investigation.  (Book Review)  [12/06]

Lancaster County, PA
Ted Dubbs

Two women on were sexually assaulted on jogging trails in separate incidents that occurred on June 5, 2000 and June 26, 2001.  The assailant used the same phrase in both attacks when he asked them to expose their breasts.  One of the women picked Charles “Ted” Dubbs out from a set of 403 mug shots.  The second woman then identified him from a set of six similar looking photos.  A third woman then identified Dubbs at trial as the man she saw driving away from one of the assaults.  She initially said the assailant drove a two-tone gray pickup, which Dubbs did not own.

Dubbs had a seemingly solid alibi for the first assault, and a decent but less reliable alibi for the second assault.  However, he was convicted in May 2002 of both assaults on the grounds that the same man must have committed both.  Dubbs was sentenced to 12 to 40 years of imprisonment.  Following Dubbs' imprisonment, two other women were sexually assaulted on local jogging trails in 2002 and 2003.

In Nov. 2006, another man, Wilbur Cyrus Brown II, pleaded guilty to five sexual assaults in neighboring Dauphin County.  He then admitted committing the four jogging trail assaults.  He pleaded guilty to the last two trail assaults, but Dubbs' prosecutor, Heidi Eakin, refused to admit that Brown committed the two earlier assaults for which Dubbs was convicted.  She insisted Dubbs committed those crimes.  Brown looks almost identical to Dubbs and owned a two-toned gray pickup described by a witness to one of the assaults.  Eakin said Brown was trying to “get back at her” and theorized that he was a copycat assailant.  The prosecutor's intransigence forced Dubbs to remain in prison an extra year.

On Sept. 5, 2007, a detective videotaped an interview with Brown in which Brown provided “significant undisclosed details regarding those assaults.”  After watching the interview video, the victims were no longer sure that Dubbs was their assailant.  On Sept 11, 2007, a judge vacated Dubbs' convictions and released him.  Prosecutors said the new evidence prevents them from retrying Dubbs.  Brown cannot be prosecuted for Dubbs' alleged assaults because the statute of limitations for them has expired.  (Patriot-News)  [9/07]

Lehigh County, PA
Dennis Counterman
July 25, 1988 (Allentown)

Dennis Counterman was sentenced to death for the arson murder of his three children.  The children perished in a fire at their row house home located at 436 Chestnut St. in Allentown.  On the morning of the fire, neighbors reported seeing Dennis in his back yard in his underwear screaming for help because his kids were inside.  The fire department believed that the fire was set and accelerants must have been used because of the speed with which the fire spread through the house.  Expert testimony has since shown that the type of sofa that was in the Counterman's house acts as its own accelerant, and that the fire theories relied upon by the local fire department were outdated and have long since been repudiated.

At trial, the prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence, although it released some evidence in the middle of the trial when the defense team was too overwhelmed to review it.  Counterman's six-year-old son, Christopher, had a history of fire starting and in fact had burn scars from a prior fire that he had started.  Christopher had set fire to the curtains in the house one month before.  The prosecution's lead witness, Counterman's mentally retarded wife, told investigators at the time of the fire that Dennis was asleep when the fire started (he had worked the night shift the evening before) and that she had awakened him to alert him that the house was on fire.  Under the joint influence of police interrogation and heavy medication for severe burns, she subsequently gave a statement that Dennis had set the fire.  Counterman's conviction was overturned in 2001 because the state withheld evidence of Christopher's fire starting.  Rather than face the uncertainty of a new trial, Counterman agreed to a time served plea in which he did not have to admit guilt. He was released in Oct. 2006.  (TruthInJustice) (CounterPunch)  [1/07]

Lehigh County, PA
Felito Mendoza
Feb 25, 1992 (Allentown)

Felito Mendoza was convicted of child molestation.  His common law wife, Mercedes, had disciplined her child, which led to physical abuse charges against Felito.  Their children were taken away.  Later he was charged with sexual abuse after a case worker got a mistranslation of a Spanish word a child used and after one child tested positive for gonorrhea, even though neither Felito or Mercedes tested positive.  Mendoza suspects the child was assaulted by Mercedes brother, now in a psychiatric hospital, who had formerly lived in the house with the children and had sexually assaulted Mercedes and her sisters.  In addition, the children were pressured and bribed by prosecutors to testify.  Defense witnesses, particularly Mercedes were pressured into not testifying.  (Justice: Denied)  [6/05]

Monroe County, PA
Han Tak Lee
July 29, 1989 (Stroud Twp)

Han Tak Lee was convicted of murder for allegedly setting a cabin fire that led to his daughter's death.  Investigators schooled in old and now discredited fire investigation beliefs ruled the fire an arson.  Beginning in the 1980s, some investigators began setting experimental fires and observing the results.  The results of these experiments overturned old beliefs and made fire investigation a science.  Modern science-based arson investigators say that the cabin fire that led to the death of Lee's daughter was an accidental fire.  (USA Today) (Arson Investigation)  [3/07]

Monroe County, PA
Michael Manning
June 16, 1997 (Scotrun)

Michael Manning was convicted of the third-degree murder of Harry Burley Jr.  Burley, 30, was fatally stabbed at a Sunoco gas station on Route 611 in Scotrun.  Burley was the boyfriend of Manning's stepsister.  On Route 611 Burley and his friend Tyrone Bass, 30, were behind Manning in Bass's car, and after Manning, then age 27, stopped for gas at the Sunoco, Bass and Burley pulled in behind him.  At trial, witnesses disputed events, but apparently Burley and Manning wrestled and punched each other for nearly two minutes.
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Montgomery County, PA
Gerald Wentzel
Dec 6, 1946 (Pottstown)

Gerald C. Wentzel was convicted in 1947 of the strangulation murder of Mrs. Miriam Green, a 29-year-old divorcee. Green was last seen entering her apartment at 358 Chestnut St. in Pottstown on the early evening of Friday, Dec. 6, 1946.  Green's mother said her daughter had planned to visit her that Friday, but she did not visit, nor did she call to say why.  Green did not report for work Saturday morning, nor did she call in sick.  The thermostat for her apartment building was located in her apartment.  She had diligently taken care of resetting the thermostat after the furnace went off, but had not that weekend.  Because of the cold, neighbors had knocked on her door several times during the weekend, but had gotten no response.  Finally, on Monday afternoon, Dec. 9, neighbors entered her apartment and found her dead.
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Montgomery County, PA
Bruce Godschalk
1986 (King of Prussia)

Bruce Donald Godschalk was convicted of a rape and burglary that occurred on July 13, 1986, and a second rape and burglary that occurred on Sept. 8, 1986.  The crimes occurred at the Kingswood Apartments on South Gulph Road in King of Prussia.  The victims did not know each other.  The first victim was unable to identify the perpetrator, but the second victim assisted police in creating a composite sketch of the perpetrator.  This sketch was broadcast on television and placed in local newspapers.  After receiving a call telling them that Godschalk resembled the sketch, police picked up Godschalk.  Upper Merion Detective Bruce Saville subsequently obtained a confession from Godschalk, one that Godschalk contended was coerced.  Following Godschalk's conviction, the prosecution refused for years to turn over a copy of his taped confession.  Once a copy was obtained, it was sent to an expert who concluded that it was likely that Godschalk had falsely confessed.  After DNA testing was requested, the prosecution claimed to have secretly sent the evidence for testing (via Saville) which yielded no results and that the evidence was destroyed in the testing.  However, evidence from both assaults was found and DNA tests on it exonerated Godschalk in 2002.  The tests also revealed that the same perpetrator had committed both assaults.  Godschalk was awarded $1.6 million by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and $740,000 by Montgomery County for 16 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (NY Times) (IP)  [5/05]

Montgomery County, PA
Ernest Priovolos
Oct 23, 1986

Ernest H. Priovolos was convicted in 1990 of the 1986 murder of his former neighbor and girlfriend, Cheryl Succa.  Succa, 21, was found dead with a broken neck under a stone bridge in the 2400 block of Washington Lane in Huntingdon Valley.  Police originally classified her death as an accident.  They said that in the dark she probably stumbled down the bank of the creek. She may not have seen the large rocks and she hit her head.  However, after a career prison informant named John Hall came forward, police ruled her death a homicide.  Hall is known to have provided testimony in an extraordinary number of cases.  In 1994-95 alone he snitched out defendants in 5 murder cases.

Hall shared a prison cell with Priovolos in Bucks County Prison who was there on a drug related charge.  Hall testified that Priovolos bragged to him in the fall of 1988 that he knocked Succa over the bridge with a karate chop and took her purse after becoming angry that she would not have sex with him. Edward Bauman, another inmate and a reported follower of Hall, corroborated Hall's testimony.  At trial, a prosecution witness caused a mistrial by testifying that Priovolos had sexually assaulted her in 1985.  No charges were ever filed for the alleged assault.  At his second trial, Priovolos was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 12 to 27 years of imprisonment.  The prosecution had sought the death penalty. (Google) (See also Walter Ogrod (Phila 1988), Michael Dirago (Bucks 1985)) [6/08]

Montgomery County, PA
Paul Camiolo
Sept 30, 1996

Paul Camiolo was charged in 1999 for the 1996 arson murder of his parents after they died from a fire in the home he shared with them.  He faced the death penalty.  Authorities also charged Camiolo with insurance fraud.  They said he set the fire to collect on a $400,000 inheritance.  Camiolo's chain smoking mother had presumably started the fire by dropping a cigarette or match on a sofa.  Camiolo tried to put out the fire by throwing a pitcher of water on it, but such an action only made the fire worse.  He said he told his semi-invalid parents to go out the back door and he called 911.  His mother made it out to the back porch, but later died from injuries sustained during the fire.  His father was found in an indoor bathroom and was pronounced dead soon afterwards.  Camiolo went out the front door and was retrieving clothes from a gym bag in his car when police arrived.  It was shortly before dawn and he was still in his underwear.  On arrival, the police witnessed the living room windows blow out as the fire reached flashover status.

Floor samples from the first floor where the fire originated tested positive for the presence of gasoline.  However, neither the carpet nor the padding above the floor tested positive for gasoline.  A volunteer firefighter, Steven Avato, who helped fight the fire, happened to have experience as an ATF arson investigator.  He was dumbfounded that Camiolo was charged and rocked the boat by publicly criticizing the arson charges.  The state thought Camiolo's exit through the front door was suspicious, but Avato thought it was common for people caught in fires to exit through the door they most commonly use, even if it is not the closest one.

A private investigator tracked down the contractor who built the house.  The contractor said the sealer used on the hardwood floors had been thinned with gasoline.  Lab tests were performed that revealed the presence of lead in the detected gasoline. Since leaded gas had not been sold for 15 years prior to the fire, investigators concluded that it could not have been used to start this fire.  The charges against Camiolo were dropped and he was released after 10 months of imprisonment.  For taking a stand in the case for which he was later proven right, Investigator Avato won an Investigator of the Year Award from the International Association of Arson Investigators.  (Forensic Files) (TruthInJustice)  [9/05]

Northampton County, PA
Robert Loomis
May 3, 1918 (Easton)

Robert Loomis was convicted of murdering Bertha Myers during a burglary.  Two fingerprint experts testified for the prosecution that a latent print found on a jewelry box belonged to Loomis.  Loomis won a new trial because the trial judge had prejudiced the jury against Loomis, and he won a third trial for the same reason.  At Loomis's third trial, the prosecution admitted that Loomis was not the source of the latent print and declined to offer it into evidence. The record does not show what led the government to this conclusion.  Loomis was acquitted and released in 1921.  (More Than Zero) (Phila Inquirer)