The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 25, 2012

Court weighs fate of 300 lifers

Milton man among killers hoping for reprieve

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

MILTON — Mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were deemed illegal this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it could be months before Pennsylvania decides how to handle hundreds of inmates serving life for crimes committed when they were young.

Thelma Stewart would like to see at least one of those young offenders freed, despite his conviction for killing her youngest son, Bobby Coup, in Milton nearly 20 years.

Stewart doesn’t believe Norman R. Gundrum Jr. was solely responsible for her son’s violent stabbing death in December 1993.

“Norm would pass out every time he saw blood,” she said. “He’s not the only one that was there. I believe there were three other boys involved and Norm is the only one doing the time.”

Gundrum, who was 16 at the time of Coup’s killing, is now 35 and has served 17 years of a life sentence.

He has filed a motion in Northumberland County Court to vacate his sentence, based on the recent federal court ruling banning juvenile offenders from mandatory life without parole sentences.

A decision in the case could take months as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court weighs how to handle the issue retroactively on about 300 juvenile killers serving life without parole.

During arguments before the state court in September, legal advocates in Pennsylvania proposed offering those offenders a chance for freedom after 20 years behind bars.