CLEARFIELD – The cases against two teens convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole were the subject of status conferences Friday in Clearfield County Court.
Jessica Holtmeyer, 16 years old in 1998, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the death of Kimberly Dotts and Andrew Callahan, 17 years old in 1997, was convicted of the murder of Micah Pollock.
In June of 2017, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder can only be given life without parole sentences in rare cases when “the juvenile offender is permanently incorrigible and thus is unable to be rehabilitated,” according to court documents.
Both of these cases are being reviewed through post-conviction relief act petitions that include the new sentencing guidelines.
Senior Judge Daniel L. Howsare of Bedford County is presiding over these cases because President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman was recused from the cases in November of 2016, according to previous reports.
It was noted that Howsare granted the petition, which allows Holtmeyer to have a re-sentencing hearing.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. stated that the Commonwealth has received a report from an expert hired by the defense. He stated that the prosecution is not planning on hiring its own expert.
Both sides have also received a report from the state institution where Holtmeyer has been incarcerated. This will be used in place of a pre-sentence investigation.
Attorney Pat Lavelle, who is representing Holtmeyer, said he is going to subpoena people from the prison to testify at the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for July 27 at 9 a.m.
Lavelle also confirmed that his expert will be on hand to testify and he was relying on court personnel to arrange for Holtmeyer’s transportation to the hearing.
During Callahan’s status conference, Howsare stated that he has not made a decision on Callahan’s PCRA, which includes a request for a new trial. But he said that regardless of whether Callahan is granted a new trial or not, he is still entitled to a re-sentencing hearing.
Howsare said he would review the information in the PCRA and make a decision on the new trial issue within a month.
Callahan’s attorney, Andrew Shubin, stated that if Callahan is given a new trial, they will discuss a plea bargain with the DA’s office.
In order for either of these defendants to receive a life without parole sentence, the commonwealth must prove they are incapable of rehabilitation. This can involve expert testimony and testimony from witnesses, according to previous reports.
The new sentences will be set with guidelines of a minimum of 25 years in prison for a first-degree murder committed by someone less than 15 years old and a minimum of 35 years for someone between the ages of 15 years old and 18 years old.
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 36, 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 36 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, Christopher Weatherill and Timothy Hanson, affected by this ruling will be discussed before Senior Judge David Grine on June 22.
Weatherill, then 17, now 45, 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 he and Daniel Crispell 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.
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 December 24, 1987, Hanson who was on the run from a juvenile facility, shot and killed David Smith at a residence in Philipsburg.