The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 16, 2013

Union County murder suspect moved to state prison

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

COAL TOWNSHIP — Accused killer Joel R. Snider has been moved from county jail to the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township for the safety of himself and others.

Douglas Shaffer, warden of the Union County jail, said he made the decision to relocate Snider last week but declined to say what specifically prompted the move.

Snider, 36, of St. Louis, Mo., faces the death penalty in the July 2010 shooting death of Sudharman, 70, a well-known New Berlin yoga master also know as Joe Fenton. The trial is pending in Union County.

After allegedly assaulting another inmate in the Union County jail in September 2010, Snider was transferred to Snyder County jail near Selinsgrove where he was held for about two years.

Snider complained in a recent letter that he was frequently harassed by other inmates until he was sent to Clinton County Prison last December.

Shaffer said he was informed a few weeks ago that Clinton County officials wanted Snider removed from their facility, but would not disclose the reason other than to say it was for the safety of the inmate and others.

That’s when Shaffer turned to the state prison system.

“We look to the state after we’ve exhausted all other alternatives,” he said.

It’s only the second time in more than two decades Shaffer has had to move a county inmate to state prison pending the outcome of charges in the Court of Common Pleas.

Snider’s attorney, Edward “E.J.” Rymsza, of Williamsport, said Wednesday he hasn’t yet visited with his client to determine the impact the move to state prison has had on him.

“I don’t know if it’s a big concern or whether the state will put limitations on our visits,” Rymsza said.

He added the county did not give him or co-counsel William Miele any warning that Snider would be moved.

“It happens sometimes and not strictly for disciplinary or protection reasons,” said Rymsza. “Sometimes it boils down to lack of space (in a county jail) or personalities.”

It’s not the first time he’s had a client moved from county jail to state prison pending trial. Michael Harrell, the Sunbury man serving a life sentence for gunning down Crystal Scholl-Gordon and David A. Moore in a city apartment in 2008, was relocated from Clinton County jail to the state prison in Coal Township so he would be closer to the courthouse during the trial.