By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
— Update: 3:25 p.m. Wednesday
In testimony this afternoon, Beth Gotshall testified that she saw Christopher Aucker and Robert Reich assaulting Donald Seebold at the Port Ann birthday party on July 12, 1997. She could not recall seeing Ryan Sprenkel striking Seebold.
She had remained quiet for about eight years because she felt pressured by people involved, she said. In 2005, she decided to approach investigators to report what she had seen.
“I felt bad for the guy,” she testified today. “If it was my child, I’d want someone to do the same thing.”
Her information changed the direction of the murder investigation, according to Tpr. Rob Reeves. He testified today that investigators started looking at Sprenkel, Reich and Aucker after hearing Gotshall’s account.
Reeves also testified that investigators had other suspects at time, but they were later ruled out because they did not attend the party.
Jennifer Long testified before a grand jury in 2011 that she saw the three defendants beat Seebold, then load his body into a pickup truck and drive away.
She recanted that account in testimony today, saying that she had not witnessed a fight or the events thereafter.
Update: Noon Wednesday
Dwayne Keister testified this morning that he witnessed a scuffle at the party, but insisted that Donald Seebold III was standing and alert afterwards.
“He was standing there when I left the party,” Keister testified.
Under questioning by prosecutors, Keister said that defendants Christopher Aucker and Ryan C. Sprenkel were fighting with Seebold, and the altercation attracted the attention of 20 to 30 partygoers.
“I would not consider it a knock down, drag out fight,” Keister testified this morning, adding that defendant Robert Reich, who is Keister’s distant cousin, attempted to break it up.
MIDDLEBURG - The half-brother of defendant Robert L. Reich testified Tuesday that after witnessing Donald E. Seebold III being beaten at a party in Port Ann on July 12, 1997, he helped his brother place the body along Troxelville Road and then kept quiet about it for years out of fear of retribution.
Kurt Gotshall admitted implicating others in the beating death of Seebold and changing his stories numerous times, but said he did it out of fear for his own safety and to cover for his brother.
“I was afraid for awhile,” he said, testifying that once after speaking with police about the events surrounding Seebold’s death, Reich punched him in the head as he held his young daughter . “I felt threatened that if I would have told the truth something would have happened to me.”
Reich, 37, of Beavertown, is on trial along with Christopher J. Aucker, 39, of Beavertown, and Ryan C. Sprenkel, 37, of Middleburg, charged with homicide, conspiracy and perjury in Seebold’s killing nearly 16 years ago.
It took that many years to break what District Attorney Michael Piecuch told the jury was a conspiracy of silence. Witnesses who attended the party where Seebold, 21, allegedly was beaten to death for flirting with Aucker’s girlfriend, now wife, Sheila Liddington Aucker, gave conflicting statements and accused others who were eventually cleared by police.
In early interviews with state police investigators, Gottshall said he saw Brian Swartzlander use an aluminum bat to strike Seebold three times in the face and once in the chest.
Under oath Tuesday, Gotshall said he lied about Swartzlander’s involvement and made other false statements to cover for his brother.
Aucker’s attorney, Michael Rudinski, questioned whether Gotshall’s false statements were to cover his own culpability and to protect himself from prosecution.
Gotshall denied harming Seebold.
In earlier testimony, forensic pathologist Dr. Samuel Land said Seebold died of blunt force trauma to the head. He said the injuries were consistent with a beating and likely caused by at least three, possibly four or more blows to the head.
There was no evidence a bat or any other object was used, Land said.
Another partygoer, Keith Buss, testified that he saw Sprenkel, Reich and Aucker hit and kick Seebold “about 100 times” after he made unwanted advances toward Liddington Aucker. After the men beat Seebold to the ground, Reich urinated on him.
Buss denied implicating anyone else, but admitted that he initially lied to police about what he knew or that he was even at the party out of fear he’d get in trouble for drinking alcohol while on probation.
He was unable to recall many details, including what the defendants were wearing.
“That was 15 years ago. I don’t remember,” he said, prompting Sprenkel’s attorney, Edward “E.J.” Rymsza to retort, “Precisely.”
An emotional Amanda Seebold Bloskey choked back tears as she testified about seeing her brother hours before his death.
Describing Sprenkel as one of her brother’s good friends, she said it wasn’t unusual for them to get into arguments and that Seebold even told her they’d fight at times.
Under cross-examination by Rymsza, Bloskey said it’s possible she may have called Sprenkel in 2005 or 2006 to tell him she didn’t think he was involved in Seebold’s death.
“I wanted to believe it. He was my brother’s best friend,” she said, sobbing as she left the courtroom.