The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 23, 2011

Mifflinburg man now faces third-degree homicide charge

Alleged steak-knife killer bailed out

SELINSGROVE — Seth M. Hornberger claims he was defending himself and a younger friend from an assault when he stabbed a 21-year-old man to death earlier this month, a state police trooper testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing in Monroe Township.

Immediately following the hearing, Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch withdrew an open count of homicide charge against Hornberger, 18, of Mifflinburg, and amended the complaint to charge him with third-degree homicide and voluntary manslaughter.

“They realize it’s not a first- or second-degree case,” Williamsport defense attorney Edward “E.J.” Rymsza said of the withdrawal of charges that carry a maximum life sentence. “It’s a clear case of self-defense, or defense of another.”

Despite the legal maneuvering, neither police nor prosecutors have explained what motive Alan Martin, 21, of Hummels Wharf, would have to break into the Hummels Wharf apartment March 13 and attack the teens.

According to Piecuch, the penalty for third-degree murder with a deadly weapon in the statutory range is 90 months to 40 years and for voluntary manslaughter, 54 months to 72 months.

Generally defined, third-degree murder is a killing in which the attacker meant to harm the victim, but did not intend for the victim to die, and voluntary manslaughter, a killing in which the attacker had no prior intent or deliberation to cause a death.

The reduced charges allowed the defense to ask for bail, which District Judge Edward Mihalik approved.

Hornberger, who had been in Snyder County jail since his arrest March 15, was granted release on $50,000 bail as the case moves toward trial in Snyder County Court.

He’s accused of stabbing Martin during an altercation at the apartment of Thomas Bingaman, 36, of 3½ Pennsylvania Ave.

Martin died at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, two days later.

Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn testified it was a homicide due to “penetrating head trauma” from a 5-inch long serrated steak knife.

Toxicology results on Martin are pending, he said.

Selinsgrove-based Trooper Matthew Miller responded to the crime scene at about 7 a.m. March 13 and testified to seeing Michael Lepley, 16, outside in front of the apartment building.

In the kitchen area of the second-floor apartment, Miller said, Martin was lying on his back in a pool of blood with a knife protruding from his temple.

“I could only see the handle of the knife, ” he testified, adding that Martin was unconscious, but breathing heavily.

Bingaman was inside the apartment, Miller said, and Susan Rudy, of Selinsgrove, had also been there but had left to call for help.

Defendant’s mom called police

Lead investigator Trooper Richard Blair testified that Hornberger’s mother, Donna, called police to report that her son was involved in a stabbing and was turning himself in.

Blair interviewed a “sobbing” Hornberger at the police station in Selinsgrove.

No attorney was present, but Hornberger’s parents were at his side while the interview was videotaped.

Hornberger said the apartment renter, Bingaman, told him and Lepley not to allow Martin inside.

When Martin showed up that morning at about 6, Lepley and Hornberger argued until Martin kicked down the door and came into the apartment.

The trio got into a physical altercation, which Blair, the trooper, said Lepley reported lasted for about an hour.

During the scuffle, Martin allegedly choked both Hornberger and Lepley. Police photographed visible red marks around Lepley’s neck.

Hornberger said Martin had Lepley in a choke hold, and when he was unable to get him off his friend, grabbed a knife from the kitchen table and stabbed him.

Blair said Lepley corroborated Hornberger’s account.

Although there was evidence the apartment door was damaged, police could not say when it occurred.

Martin’s family disputes Hornberger’s version of events. They say Martin was allowed at Bingaman’s apartment and the door was damaged earlier.

The defense called no witnesses.

Relatives from both sides, including Hornberger’s parents and three sisters, and Martin’s parents, Patricia Grenfell and Karl Martin, and three of his sisters, listened intently to the testimony.

Outside the courtroom, Rymsza said Hornberger and Lepley were best friends who had stayed the night at Bingaman’s apartment. He did not believe Hornberger and Martin knew each other.

— E-mail comments to

Text Only
  • 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 ( 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

  • Danville parents hope strike ends quickly

    DANVILLE ““ First-grader Madison Wild was sad she missed school Thursday.

    April 19, 2014

  • Schools ask state to waive 180-day rule

    Three area school districts have asked the Pennsylvania Department of Education to add up their hours instead of their days in order to reach the required amount of instruction time in the school year.

    April 19, 2014

  • Former Bucknell star in NBA playoffs

    ATLANTA — It really hit Mike Muscala a few days ago when he was listening to the Nets’ starting lineup at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    April 19, 2014

  • State: Discard raw milk from Greenfield Dairy

    MIDDLEBURG — Consumers should discard raw milk purchased recently from the Greenfield Dairy of Middleburg, which also has temporarily suspended production after Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in the product following routine testing, the state Department of Agriculture announced today.

    April 18, 2014

The Daily Marquee

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

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


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.