The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 21, 2012

Stabber hopes to avoid execution

The Daily Item

WILLIAMSPORT — One of two inmates accused of a 2005 murder in the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary will escape a possible death penalty if his guilty plea to first-degree murder is accepted.

Shawn Cooya, 42, has signed a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. Middle District Court that calls for a life sentence and a waiver of appeal rights. Cooya and Ritz Williams, both Native Americans from Arizona, were charged with repeatedly stabbing Alvin Allery, another Native American, with a homemade knife and kicking him, on Sept. 28, 2005. The killing was a planned event, the indictment alleges.

The two were indicted in 2008 with the government announcing it would seek the death penalty if they were convicted.

Plea agreements for both were filed this summer but the prosecution could not sign them because Justice Department officials in Washington denied a request to drop the death penalty.

A guilty plea hearing for Cooya has been scheduled Jan. 8 in Harrisburg. The government has yet to sign off on a plea agreement for Williams.

Cooya is detained without bail on the murder charge since the firearms sentence he was serving at the time of the murder expired. Williams is serving a 15-year term imposed in 2002 on charges related to another death.