UPDATE, 10:30 Wednesday: After more than seven days of testimony, both sides rested early Wednesday morning in the Donald E. Seebold murder trial in Middleburg.
None of the three men on trial - Robert L. Reich, Christopher J. Aucker and Ryan C. Sprenkel - took the stand in their own defense. Michael Rudinski, the attorney for Aucker, said in his opening statement that Aucker would testify.
Closing arguments are set for this afternoon and the jury of eight women and four men will begin deliberating tomorrow.
The Daily Item
There was no fight at the July 1997 party in Port Ann, where three Snyder County men are accused of beating to death Donald E. Seebold III, according to the testimony of 10 defense witnesses Wednesday.
The witnesses firmly denied any fight or altercation broke out involving Seebold, 21, of New Berlin, or the defendants, Robert L. Reich, Christopher J. Aucker and Ryan C. Sprenkel at the party held on the adjoining properties of Reich’s parents and his aunt, Linda Thomas.
Ron Plummer disputed incriminating testimony given last week by Reich’s half-brother, Kurt Gotshall, a primary prosecution witness who said he saw Reich, 37, and Aucker, 39, both of Beavertown, beating Seebold to the ground and then helped his half-brother remove a badly beaten Seebold from the property in his truck and leave him along Troxelville Road a few miles away.
“It would be easy to persuade Kurt he had just seen the Easter bunny,” Plummer said, citing Gotshall’s diminished mental capacity.
Seebold’s death from blunt-force trauma caused by several blows to the head remained a mystery for nearly 15 years as partygoers gave conflicting accounts to police about what happened.
In 2005, Kurt Gotshall’s wife, Beth, provided police new details linking Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel to the crime and the investigation took a new direction.
Jean Gotshall, the mother of Reich and Kurt Gotshall, also denied the accuracy of her younger son’s version of events the night of the party.
She described in court how Kurt became ill after drinking too much alcohol and that she cleaned him up and put him to bed at about 9:30 p.m.
“He needed help to walk,” Jean Gotshall said, adding that she checked on him frequently throughout the evening and he remained in bed with Beth, his girlfriend at the time.
Mom: I had keys to truck
She also testified that she kept Kurt’s truck keys so he couldn’t drive under the influence of alcohol and that the vehicle didn’t leave the property that night.
Under cross-examination by District Attorney Michael Pieuch, Jean Gotshall denied discussing the case with her son or the accusations he was making against his own half-brother even after he and Reich were called to testify to a statewide grand jury investigating Seebold’s death.
“Kurt didn’t want to talk to me,” she said.
After details of his accusations became public and Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel were arrested on homicide, conspiracy and perjury charges, Plummer said he was asked by Jean Gotshall to speak to Kurt and suggest he obtain an attorney and consider his “options.”
One of the options he was going to suggest was for Kurt Gotshall to recant his claims about the Seebold killing.
“I believe the statements Kurt gave were untrue because I know he was incoherent at the party. I thought maybe he was pressured to make false statements,” Plummer said, denying any attempt to intimidate a witness.
In earlier testimony, prosecution witness Keith Buss also testified about seeing Seebold being beaten up at the party and then urinated upon by Reich.
However, Plummer and his wife, Stacy, said they saw Reich urinate on another partygoer, Michael Beachel, who had passed out in the yard.
Jennifer Keefer testified that Reich admitted urinating on Beachel.
Testimony in the trial that began April 29 is scheduled to conclude today.
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