The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

February 12, 2013

Witness in Snyder County homicide case changes story

MIDDLEBURG - A witness in a 1997 homicide tearfully testified Monday in Snyder County Court that she lied to a state grand jury after being threatened by police.

Jennifer Long’s emotions ranged from emotional to confrontational as Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch questioned her for more than 90 minutes about the August 2011 testimony she gave to a grand jury regarding the July 1997 beating death of Donald E. Seebold III.

“I was told I couldn’t go into the grand jury saying ‘I don’t know’ or I’d be handcuffed or arrested,” she said Monday, explaining why she allegedly lied, knowing she was committing a felony perjury. “I was scared. I felt threatened. I wanted to give you guys what you wanted.”

In her testimony to the grand jury more than a year ago, Long, 35, said she saw Seebold, 22, being beaten by a group of people while attending a birthday party, heard her aunt, Linda Thomas, 46, tell the partygoers to remove Seebold from her Port Ann property and watched as her cousin, Robert Reich, 37, of Beavertown, and Ryan Sprenkel, 36, of Middleburg, nearly carried Seebold into the back of a pickup truck.

Seebold was later found unconscious lying on Troxelville Road, about two miles away, by Sprenkel and two other partygoers, Chris Aucker, 38, and his now-wife, Sheila Liddington Aucker.

He was found dead the next day in Sprenkel’s vehicle, where they left him, allegedly believing he was passed out.

Reich, Sprenkel and Aucker were each charged with homicide last March after the grand jury hearings in which several other witnesses provided similar testimony about an alleged fight. All three are scheduled to be tried together in April.

On Friday, Reich withdrew a motion to dismiss the charges against him due to the passage of time between Seebold’s death and the charges being filed.

Liddington Aucker and Thomas were each charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury about the events surrounding Seebold’s fatal beating.

During Long’s testimony Monday afternoon, Senior Judge Louise O. Knight stepped off the bench and sat in the jury box to get a better view of the witness.

Long now says she never saw Seebold being beaten or carried into a pickup truck nor heard Thomas angrily order his removal from her property.

She said police gave her those details and then an officer threatened her — in the presence of Piecuch and another law enforcement officer — to tell them to the grand jury just moments before she went before the panel.

“I kept telling you guys I didn’t know anything and one of the officers got mad and threw a book down,” Long said.

When Piecuch pressed her about whether she filed a complaint or reported being threatened by law enforcement to commit perjury, Long angrily responded, “Who was I supposed to tell?”

Later, she cried and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she exclaimed that she didn’t know what to do.

Long’s appearance in court Monday was for a pretrial hearing on the perjury charge against Thomas.

At the end of Long’s testimony, Thomas’ attorney, William Tully, of Harrisburg, agreed the court had no basis to dismiss the perjury charge and said Long’s credibility should be weighed by the jury.

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