CLEARFIELD – Two murder cases from the 1990’s were discussed Wednesday in Clearfield County Court.
Jessica Holtmeyer, 16 years old in 1998, was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of Kimberly Dotts and Andrew Callahan, 17 years old in 1997, was convicted of the murder of Micah Pollock in 1998. Both were given sentences of life without parole.
Appeals in both cases were scheduled for status hearings with their attorneys, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. and Senior Judge Daniel L. Howsare of Bedford County Wednesday.
Howsare was appointed to preside over the cases after President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman was recused from the cases in November of 2016, according to court documents.
Howsare explained that he wanted to see where things stand with the cases, be introduced to the attorneys and become familiar with how things are done in Clearfield County Court.
Currently there is a stay in these cases due to a pending Pennsylvania Supreme Court case regarding the procedures and justification of giving a juvenile defendant a life without parole sentence.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders,” according to court documents.
In 2016, the court went a step further and made this retroactive, thus affecting all previous cases.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an appeal on the case of the Commonwealth versus Qu’eed Batts in December, according to an article by the Associated Press.
Batts was given a life sentence without parole for a murder when he was 14 years old. After the Supreme Court ruling, a new sentencing hearing was held for Batts, but he received the same sentence.
In the original court case, Miller versus Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court “outlawed mandatory life without parole for juveniles and instructed the discretionary imposition of this sentence should be ‘uncommon’ and reserved for the ‘rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption,” according to court documents.
The discussion in the case is whether the sentencing hearing in these types of cases should be handled the same way as a death penalty phase of a trial.
No further action will be taken on either Holtmeyer or Callahan’s cases until a decision is made in the Batts case and new procedures for this situation established.
Shaw suggested that regular status conferences be held for these cases so they do not “fall by the wayside,” as they wait for a decision to be made. Shaw commented it could be up to a year before it is resolved.
Testimony in Holtmeyer’s trial revealed that she and Aaron Straw hanged Dotts twice because they were afraid she was going to snitch on their plans to run away to Florida.
Holtmeyer, now 35, was also convicted of smashing Dotts’ face with a basketball-sized rock while the girl lay convulsing on the ground after the second hanging.
Callahan, who is also 35 now, was convicted in two additional trials (2007 and 2010) after his appeals for new trials were granted. This murder took place in Pine Run, Beccaria Township.
Testimony in the trial included information that Callahan had threatened to kill his Glendale High School classmate, Pollock if he did not stay away from his ex-girlfriend.
The day after shooting Pollock in the back, Callahan returned to where he had buried Pollock with pine branches. He tried to stuff the body in a garbage can but when it did not fit, he tied it to a vehicle and dragged it to a beaver pond where he dumped it.
Two other Clearfield County cases will potentially be affected by the Batts case.
Daniel L. Crispell, then 18, now 46, was convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and related charges in June of 1990 and given the death penalty.
The charges stem from an October of 1989 incident in which Crispell and Christopher Weatherill abducted Ella M. Brown, 48, at the DuBois Mall. Her body was found a day later in Sandy Township about four miles north of DuBois. She had been stabbed to death.
Timothy Hanson, then 15, now 45, was convicted of criminal homicide after a jury trial on June 24, 1988, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
According to court documents, on Dec. 24, 1987, Hanson, who was on the run from a juvenile facility, shot and killed David Smith at a residence in Philipsburg.