The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 1, 2012

Richard: 'Rip' and or 'Cherokee' killed Mifflinburg man

LEWISBURG — It was a robbery gone bad, said Justin Richard, 28, of Mifflinburg, who testified for roughly three hours Monday in the Union County courtroom during a preliminary hearing for three other Valley residents charged in two June home-invasion robberies, one that ended in the murder of Randy Sampsell, of Mifflinburg.

Before family and friends from both sides and District Judge Jeffrey Mensch, Richard testified for the commonwealth in exchange for a deal that dismisses his charge of second-degree murder and possibly his third-degree murder charge in exchange for two counts of robbery.

Jeffrey Crossland, Union County assistant district attorney, asked if Richard was “here to testify on behalf of the commonwealth in exchange for a plea?” Richard answered, “Yes, that and personally, I want to see justice be served.”

Richard then detailed events leading to and that occurred on June 12, when he, Herbert Tiebout, 37, of Sunbury, and two other unidentified African-American men set out to rob Scott Vonneida, of Millmont, and Sampsell.

The goal of the robberies was “money and pot,” Richard said, looking for homes of drug dealers to break into so he could steal marijuana and sell it.

He said Amanda Kratzer, 26, of Lewisburg, whom he was dating, told Richard of “Curt’s dad,” Scott Vonneida, her ex-boyfriend’s father, and “her best friend’s dad,” Randy Sampsell, also an ex-boyfriend’s father, as being among people who would have marijuana.

Kratzer is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary. A charge of receiving stolen property was dropped Monday.

“She told me they were both drug dealers,” Richard said. “I found out they were both elderly men.”

Richard then detailed events, beginning with running into Teibout in Forest Hill. The men knew each other from a jail in Greensburg, he said.

From there, the two planned the robberies, but Richard said he didn’t expect the other men, the two African-Americans, who joined them the night of June 12. He did not learn their names, he said, but thought their nicknames might be “Rip” and “Cherokee.”

The four went first to Vonneida’s home. Vonneida allegedly was beaten severely and at least three of the men stole about 10 guns from his cabinet, one which would be used later to murder Sampsell.

Between the robberies, the men went to the home of Michael Shetterly II, 24, of Mifflinburg, a cousin of Richard, where he and Kratzer were staying, he said.

Richard said he took two of the guns inside the house along with some marijuana taken from Vonneida. He asked Shetterly where he could put them and was directed to a back room, he said.

He also gave the marijuana to Kratzer and told her “not to touch it,” he said.

Outside of Sampsell’s home, Richard said the larger of the two unidentified men brought one of the guns with him. “I thought as a scare tactic,” he said.

When the men burst into Sampsell’s home, Richard said the man pointed the gun at Sampsell, who had been sleeping, and told him not to move.

Sampsell was awakening and trying to sit up, Richard said, and that is when the unidentified man shot him in the middle of his head.

“I said, ‘What the (expletive) are you doing?’” Richard said, leaving the house and going back to the car. He said the other three men were back in the car within a minute.

Union County Coroner Wanda Walters said, “It looked like his head had some trauma to it,” adding the body was sent to the Lehigh Valley “to determine the manner and cause of death.”

Sampsell’s brother found his decomposing body about 10 days after the murder, still seated in a recliner in his Mifflinburg home.

Richard also testified he had asked Shetterly earlier for “clothes and a ski mask,” and that Shetterly asked why Richard didn’t ask him to participate. Richard said he wanted to keep him out of trouble.

Richard also said originally he wanted to protect Kratzer from fallout of the crimes because he believed she was carrying his baby and “it would need one parent that’s not in prison.”

However, he changed his mind, he said, during their Sept. 11 arraignment when he realized Kratzer wasn’t pregnant.

While awaiting the start of that arraignment before Mensch in Mifflinburg, Richard asked Kratzer, “Would you at least tell me if you were pregnant? Did you have an abortion? Were you ever pregnant?” Kratzer did not answer Richard, instead staring directly ahead.

Edward J. Rymsza, of Williamsport, representing Shetterly, asked Richard if he knows taking the plea deal keeps him from life in prison. Richard said yes, but also he “wanted justice to be done. An innocent man was killed. I realize what I’ve done is wrong.”

Crossland had no comment about why the district attorney’s office offered Richard a deal. He said the investigation continues into the crimes.

Attorneys for the three remaining defendants cross-examined Richard. They are Stephen Becker, of Williamsport, who represents Kratzer; Steve Buttorff, of Mifflinburg, representing Tiebout; and Rymsza.

Charges against Tiebout were held for court. They include second- and third-degree murder in Sampsell’s death, as well as robbery, burglary, assault and various other offenses, totaling 13 in all.

Shetterly’s bail was continued at $25,000. His charge of receiving stolen property, namely two shotguns stolen from Vonneida’s home, was held for court.

Kratzer’s charges except one were bound for court. She remains free after posting $5,000 of $50,000 bail.

Arraignment is set for Nov. 5 in county court.

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