CLEARFIELD – A state prison inmate accused of killing his cellmate pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Friday in Clearfield County Court. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
Lawrence Edward Peterson Jr., 45, was facing charges after an incident that occurred at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale on Aug. 2, 2013. Peterson was accused of severely beating his cellmate, William Albert Keitel; Keitel died Aug. 11, 2013.
Keitel was serving a life sentence for the close-range shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her boyfriend. He also wounded her father during the custody exchange at a Shop ‘N Go store in Ohio Township on New Year’s Day in 1998, according to reports from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998 and 2013.
Peterson was serving a 40- to 80-year sentence for various crimes that he committed in Northampton County in November of 1998. His minimum sentence was to expire on Nov. 18, 2038 and his maximum on Nov. 18, 2078, according to Ammerman.
With Peterson’s guilty plea, the death penalty was taken off the table. “Anytime you can get a life sentence, it’s a more economical thing to do because of the way the death penalty is carried out in Pennsylvania,” explained District William A. Shaw Jr.
Shaw noted, “He could have been given the same sentence anyway by a jury.” Peterson’s case was scheduled to go to jury selection on Monday, which has been cancelled by Clearfield County Court.
“I’m satisfied with the resolution,” said Shaw. “It’s important for people to know that the law applies inside of prison as well as outside. We want to send that message to inmates that you can’t just go beat up other inmates, correctional officers, counselors and visitors.”
If the Peterson murder case had gone to a jury trial, Shaw said he was 100 percent confident he would have gotten a conviction. “We had a good, solid case,” he said.