The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 1, 2014

Bench trial OK'd for suspect in yoga master's murder

— LEWISBURG — Union-Snyder Judge Michael T. Hudock will preside at the murder trial of Joel R. Snider in June and decide his fate.

Snider, 37, of St. Louis, Mo., was granted a bench trial Tuesday after waiving his right to a jury trial.

“I’m taking (prescription medication) and believe I am of sound mind to understand,” he told Hudock during the morning hearing, held to determine whether Snider was fully aware that he was giving up his right to select a 12-member jury that would have to reach a unanimous verdict.

Snider faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the July 2010 murder of New Berlin yoga master Sudharman.

The 70-year-old victim, also known as Joe Fenton, was fatally shot in his home, which also served as a yoga studio.

The bench trial is scheduled to begin June 2.

Co-defense counsel Edward “E.J.” Rymsza and William Miele are pursing a mental health defense for Snider, who allegedly sent emails to an acquaintance describing his plan to kill Sudharman before the slaying took place.

In January, prosecutor Anthony Forray, a deputy attorney general appointed to the case after Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson recused himself because he was a friend of the victim, withdrew capital punishment as a possible penalty.

Hudock said Snider will be transferred from the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township to the Union County Jail about a month before the trial to allow the defense attorneys easier access to him. Snider was moved to state prison about a year ago, officials said, for his and others’ safety after he allegedly assaulted another inmate and complained of being harassed by cellmates.

Snider’s appearance has changed quite a bit during the more than three years he’s been in custody.

At the time of his arrest, the then 33-year-old was clean-shaven and bald. In February, he came to court with a mop of brown curly hair, a bushy beard and dark-rimmed glasses. On Tuesday, his beard was shaved, and his slick hair was combed back.

Text Only
The Daily Marquee

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.