The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 24, 2013

Judge nixes work release for Mifflinburg man involved in fatal shooting

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — A petition for work release by a 21-year-old Mifflinburg man serving a 30-month to 5-year state prison sentence in the Union County Jail for fatally shooting a friend was denied Wednesday.

Alexander M. Shoemaker will be eligible for parole June 12 after serving the minimum sentence for accidentally shooting to death Anthony “Tone” Hernandez, 16, of Mifflinburg, on May 8, 2010, while handling a loaded 9mm pistol as they smoked marijuana and played video games inside Shoemaker’s Walbash Road home in West Buffalo Township.

At sentencing seven months later, then-President Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr. ordered the 19-year-old Shoemaker to serve his state prison term in the county jail for his own safety despite calls for harsh punishment from Hernandez’s family.

In May 2011, after spending five months behind bars, Shoemaker petitioned the court to be sent to state prison, where he would have access to more programs than the 35-bed county jail offers, or be granted work release.

Woelfel denied both requests, calling Shoemaker “naive and clueless” for wanting to transfer to a state facility housing hardened criminals.

As he nears the end of his minimum 2 1/2-year sentence, Shoemaker is looking forward to freedom and again petitioned the court for work release.

Attorney Mark Lemon told the judge that Shoemaker has a job offer from a local dairy farmer, has been a model inmate and his request to be allowed out daily for work is supported by county jail Warden Douglas Shaffer. “It’s an important step for him to take,” Lemon said.

District Attorney D. Peter Johnson had no objection to the petition and said Hernandez’s grieving parents didn’t respond to the proposal when contacted by victim-witness coordinator Vicki Hackenburg.

Woelfel was unmoved as he pointed out the letter from the local dairy farm owner said Shoemaker would be considered for a job, not that a position is available, and Shaffer only described Shoemaker’s good behavior as an inmate without indicating any support for work release.

In denying the petition, Woelfel said he made the decision to house Shoemaker in the county jail for safety reasons and had he been in a state facility he would not be eligible for the work-release program.

“I don’t see why he should get something not available in state,” the judge said.

Lemon argued that Shoemaker would have had access to many more technical and educational programs as a state inmate.

“The state may not have work release, but (inmates) can at least learn a trade,” he said.

After the brief hearing, Terri Jo Shoemaker said her son didn’t expect to be released for work.

As he was being led back to the jail, Shoemaker turned to his mother and younger sister and said, “You don’t have to worry about it. I’m good.”