The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 1, 2012

Union County jury finds Roderick Sims guilty in murder of Charity Spickler

LEWISBURG — After openly disagreeing with his defense team throughout his seven-day trial in Union County, Roderick Sims was convicted Wednesday of felony second-degree murder in the slaying of Charity Spickler four years ago and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Sims, 50, didn’t visibly react to the verdict delivered by the seven-man, five-woman panel, but later dismissed his conviction as unjust.

“It was an all-white jury. It was an injustice here,” he said, vowing to appeal as deputies led him away in shackles. Sims is black and Spickler was white.

Through his attorney, Michael Dennehy, Sims asked President Judge Michael H. Sholley to set aside the verdict based on his claim of prosecutorial misconduct by Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson and the “corrupt process.”

Sholley denied the motion.

Sims was found guilty of the Sept. 27, 2008, fatal shooting of his estranged fiancee inside a 55 S. Water St. apartment in Lewisburg and will be sentenced Friday morning. Felony second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

He was also convicted of burglary and two counts of terroristic threats for breaking into the apartment and threatening two others, Lorraine Reed, of Northumberland, and Eric Hitchcock, of Harrisburg, with the 38-caliber revolver he used to kill Spickler, 27, after catching her in bed with Hitchcock.

Clutching a tissue to her face, Debra Spickler sobbed as the jury announced its verdict against her daughter’s killer. She and several other family and friends declined comment, saying they would make statements at the sentencing hearing.

Reed said she was pleased the jury was not swayed by Sims’ testimony, including his claims that she was a negative influence on Spickler, who was at her apartment the night she was shot.

“Charity was beautiful, inside and out,” Reed said, adding that the traumatic incident of losing her friend so violently and being confronted by Sims with a gun has left her depressed and nervous.

Said Johnson: “I was very impressed with the jurors’ ability to stay attentive in an intense, complicated trial. The verdict was very appreciated by the commonwealth and the victim’s family.”

In closing arguments, Johnson asked the jury to convict Sims of the most serious charge as he recapped evidence he said revealed the killing was intentional, including Sims’ prior threats to shoot Spickler in the head if he caught her with another man.

“There was no provocation by Charity Spickler that supports his heat of passion,” the prosecutor argued.

“Mr. Sims exhibited cool, cold reflection.”

Sims battled openly, sometimes angrily, with his attorneys, Dennehy and John McLaughlin, of Danville, over their decision to pursue an involuntary manslaughter defense on the basis that he acted recklessly when he confronted Spickler with the gun after catching her in bed with Hitchcock.

Sims refused to take his attorneys advice and, while on the witness stand, denied he was overcome with emotion at seeing the mother of his three children with another man. Rather, he insisted he was intoxicated and shot Spickler accidentally.

Before beginning deliberations, jurors were informed by the judge that voluntary intoxication is not a legal defense and they couldn’t consider it.

They were given four options to consider: second-degree and third-degree murder, both of which involve malice; voluntary manslaughter, which is a killing carried out in the heat of passion due to serious provocation, and involuntary manslaughter caused by reckless and gross negligence.

After asking for clarification on legal definitions of the charges, the jury deliberated a little less than two hours before delivering its verdict Wednesday afternoon.

“It is what it is,” Dennehy said, adding he anticipates Sims will challenge the jury’s decision.

Sims’ mother, Carolyn Crafton, of Paterson, N.J., and sister, Edwana Sims Milton, of Shamokin Dam, attended the trial daily, but missed the verdict’s announcement. They walked into the courthouse seconds after Sims was led out of the building by deputies.

 

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