The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

August 15, 2012

Judge: No need to reconsider sentences for teen killers

SUNBURY — Robert Sacavage, the Northumberland County president judge who served as district attorney when 17-year-old Norman Gundrum Jr. was sentenced to life without parole for the 1993 killing of Bobby Coup, said that despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision calling into question the validity of life sentences for juvenile offenders, there has never been much public sympathy for juvenile killers.

“There was no outcry at the time or now,” Sacavage said of young killers serving life such as Gundrum and Brandon Brown — who was 15 when he killed Jasmine Stoud, 6, in 2001 in Coal Township. “I find it troubling that these old cases keep coming back and we have to hear them decades later.”

More than 17 years after his case was decided by a jury, Gundrum, now 35 and serving his time at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, hopes to reduce his life sentence by arguing that the penalty is unconstitutional and should be overturned.

Pennsylvania has more people serving life sentences due to convictions as juveniles than any other state. Numbers compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures indicate there are more than 2,500 juvenile lifers nationwide — 480 of them in Pennsylvania.

District Attorney Anthony Rosini opposes Gundrum’s bid for a new sentence, arguing in part that his appeals have been exhausted and the U.S. Supreme Court decision does not apply retroactively.

Northumberland County special counsel Michael Seward said Gundrum should not have to die in prison for a decision he made as a 15-year-old boy.

“When do you decide to throw a life away?” asked Seward, who has been appointed to represent Gundrum in appealing his mandatory life sentence.

Gundrum was 15 when he stabbed Coup, 18, of Milton, to death in December 1993.

He was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in 1995 and sent to prison for life without parole after a Northumberland County jury voted not to put him to death.

“Kids were put to death in this country up until a few years ago,” Sacavage said, referring to the March 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision barring juveniles from death row.

He said the ban against capital punishment for minors was the catalyst for the latest court ruling regarding juveniles and mandatory life terms.

Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor is hearing the appeal, but is awaiting a pending Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision on a similar case.

If the decision prohibiting mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles may be applied retroactively, Seward said, Gundrum wants a new sentencing hearing.

Seward said judges should have discretion when sentencing juveniles.

“It’s easy for people to look at (murder cases) and decide (offenders) should be put away for life, but it’s not that simple when you look at what the person was going through in his life at the time,” he said.

Seward argued that studies show teen brains aren’t fully developed and their ability to reason is reduced, so minors convicted of a crime shouldn’t be subjected to mandatory life in prison.

At his January 1995 sentencing hearing in Northumberland County Court, Gundrum testified that he was sexually assaulted repeatedly by Jack Harclerode, then a Bucknell University professor, who lured him as a child with offers of money and gifts, and two other men a few years later.

After he was sentenced to life in prison, state police investigated his claims and two of the men, Lester Hunt and Harry Young, each pleaded guilty to corruption of a minor. Police were unable to prove Gundrum’s claims against Harclerode, but years later, in 2008, Harclerode was convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy at a Columbia County campground. More charges followed, and Harclerode is now serving a 10-year-sentence for sexually assaulting a young boy in the mid-1990s.

1
Text Only
News
  • xfire20b.jpg Firefighters battle blaze at BJ's in Danville

    DANVILLE — A fire Sunday damaged BJ’s Steak & Rib House, 291 Mill St., and endangered a neighboring shop and apartment building.

    April 20, 2014 6 Photos

  • Chase leads to jail

    MILTON — Charges were pending Sunday against a man allegedly tied to a rash of recent burglaries in Milton borough who ran from Milton Police on Saturday.
     

    April 20, 2014

  • Police: 3 steal debit cards, $10G in jewelry for drug trip to NY

    NEW BERLIN — Three Valley teenagers are under investigation for allegedly stealing debit cards and roughly $10,000 in jewelry from three parked vehicles in Union County earlier this month to fund a trip to New York to buy drugs.

    April 20, 2014

  • Valley farmers keep eye out for deadly pig virus

    CAMP HILL — Pork producers across the commonwealth — and in the Valley — are on the alert for a still existing virus that last year killed 12 piglets in Pennsylvania and a million piglets around the country.

    April 20, 2014

  • Loaded language

    Sometimes it’s the offhand remark that’s the most telling. Indeed, the way we Americans casually, often unthinkingly, incorporate gun metaphors into our everyday slang says a lot about how deeply embedded guns are in our culture and our politics, and how difficult it is to control or extract them. Consider this list, presented as bullet points — which are themselves so conventional, so central to the typography of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, that you can forget what their shape represents.

    April 20, 2014

  • Prize claim cost man $1,829

    WINFIELD — Western Union is doing what it can to educate people about the risks in wiring money. An entire section on its website (www.westernunion.com) is devoted to providing information that might reduce the risk of people falling victim to fraud schemes.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Reel good time enjoyed by 200 young anglers

    TREVORTON — It only took about three minutes for J.C. Wallish to reel in his first fish at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s annual Youth Trout Derby on Saturday.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Elytte Barbour's 'bad trip' put him on the road to prison, friend says

    SUNBURY — A former roommate of slaying suspect Elytte Barbour drove 450 miles from North Carolina to spend 45 minutes in the Northumberland County Prison with his best friend last week, and was not surprised when he heard Barbour say: “I am afraid to spend the rest of my life in jail.”

    April 19, 2014

  • bonehunt20a.jpg 60 dogs battle for biscuits at annual bone hunt

    It was a scene similar to ones playing out all over the nation this weekend: nervous parents holding baskets and bags, watching their little ones search for goodies in the grass.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona tribe set to prosecute first non-Indian under a new law

    PASCUA YAQUI INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. — Tribal police chief Michael Valenzuela drove through darkened desert streets, turned into a Circle K convenience store and pointed to the spot beyond the reservation line where his officers used to take the non-Indian men who battered Indian women.
     

    April 19, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Poll

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

Feet first
Tail first
Ears first
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.