The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

May 9, 2013

DA to jurors: 'Core truths' permeate case

MIDDLEBURG — Attorneys for three Snyder County men accused of fatally beating a 22-year-old New Berlin resident to death nearly 16 years ago said in closing arguments Wednesday the evidence against them is based on lies told by unbelievable witnesses.

Each of the attorneys representing Robert L. Reich, 37, Christopher J. Aucker, 39, and Ryan C. Sprenkel, 37, asked for acquittals on all charges — murder, conspiracy and perjury — arguing District Attorney Michael Piecuch failed to prove they were responsible for killing Donald E. Seebold III, who was found dead July 13, 1997.

“This is a misjustice for these (defendants) and a misjustice for the Seebolds,” said Aucker’s attorney, Michael Rudinski, as Seebold’s younger sister, Amanda Bloskey, wept.

Testimony lasted 7 days

Closing arguments were delivered after more than seven days of testimony. The jury of eight women and four men will begin deliberating today.

Piecuch alleges Seebold was fatally assaulted by Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel after he flirted with Aucker’s then girlfriend, now wife, Sheila Liddington Aucker, during a birthday party celebration in Port Ann on the mid-July evening in 1997.

Sprenkel and Aucker claimed they found Seebold lying semi-conscious on the side of Troxelville Road a few miles from the party. Believing Seebold was passed out from intoxication, Sprenkel left him in the back seat of his car where he was found dead the next day.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Samuel Land testified that Seebold died of blunt-force trauma from at least three blows to the head.

For years, Piecuch said, investigators chased false leads and rumor that led to Tim Steffen and Brian Swartzlander being identified as suspects.

Both were later cleared of any involvement.

“Veil of secrecy”: 8 years

It took eight years for the “veil of secrecy” to lift and for several witnesses to come forward and admit a fight occurred at the party.

Piecuch said that turned the investigation in a new direction and eventually toward Reich, Aucker and Sprenkel.

Among those witnesses was Reich’s half-brother, Kurt Gotshall, Brian Heckman and Keith Buss, all of whom changed their stories and admitted lying to police and in court hearings before testifying last week that Seebold was beaten at the party.

Piecuch agreed that some of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony was confusing, but that there were “core truths” to it and that a beating fueled by testosterone and alcohol led to Seebold’s death.

Rudinski, Best and his co-counsel Rachel Wiest Benner, and Sprenkel’s attorney, Edward “E.J.” Rymsza, presented about a dozen witnesses who denied any fight or altercation took place at the party. Several recalled seeing Seebold alive and on his feet in the early morning hours of July 13, 1997, as the party wound down.

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