By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch had been in office only a few months in the summer of 2010 when he began reviewing state police reports on the area’s only unsolved murder.
He pored over information contained in three large binders at the suggestion of Sgt. Fred Dyroff, the first trooper called to investigate the July 13, 1997, unattended death of Donald E. Seebold II, 22.
Seebold was found dead in the back seat of Ryan Sprenkel’s vehicle where he had been placed hours earlier after Sprenkel and Christopher Aucker found him lying in the middle of Troxelville Road, in Beavertown, not far from the home of Robert Reich, where all three had attended a birthday party the previous night.
After meeting with a state police task force that never stopped investigating Seebold’s death, Piecuch was keen to find out what happened to the young man.
“We decided the only way to move the case forward was to take it to a grand jury,” Piecuch said.
Numerous witnesses appeared before the statewide grand jury and several testified they saw Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel brutally kick and punch Seebold at the party held on Reich’s family property in Port Ann. Others denied any assault took place at the large gathering.
Based on the recommendation of the grand jury, criminal homicide, conspiracy and perjury charges were filed against the three men in March 2012.
In addition, perjury charges were filed against Linda Thomas, Reich’s aunt who hosted the party on her property, and Aucker’s wife, Sheila Liddington Aucker, for allegedly lying to the grand jury when they denied a fight took place.
On Thursday afternoon following a nine-day trial, a jury of eight woman and four men acquitted Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel of all charges. Each of them walked out of the Middleburg courthouse surrounded by friends and loved ones after spending a year in jail without bail.
“I respect the jury’s verdicts, but I also consider this case closed,” Piecuch said afterward.
As a result of the verdicts, he plans to drop perjury charges against Thomas and Liddington Aucker.
The trial attracted many court observers who had no link to the defendants or the Seebold family. Some questioned the strength of the commonwealth’s case, particularly in light of the confusing testimony given by several prosecution witnesses who admitted lying to the grand jury and in related court hearings as well as evidence that police had identified other suspects, including Tim Steffen and Brian Swartzlander, early in the investigation.
Piecuch said he has interviewed both men, but wouldn’t say whether Steffen or Swartzlander testified before the grand jury.
He added that none of the witnesses who admitted at trial that they had previously lied in court about this case will face perjury charges, reiterating his position that the Seebold case is now closed.
“I don’t cherry-pick easy cases to go to trial with,” he said.
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