CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Saying he understood that there could be “no satisfactory outcome,” Clarion County Judge James Arner sentenced Damien Ditz to 10 to 20 years in state prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Katrina Seaburn on March 1, 2017.
Arner also sentenced Ditz, who was convicted of third-degree murder by a jury of seven women and five men on Dec. 7, 2018, to one to two years in state prison on his conviction of aggravated assault causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
That sentence is to run concurrently with the murder conviction. The judge merged another charge of aggravated assault, two charges of simple assault and a charge of reckless endangerment into the murder three sentencing.
In addition, Arner order Ditz to pay a total of $12,716.01 in restitution including $5,232.26 to Tammy Seaburn, the mother of Katrina Seaburn, $630 to Thomas Seaburn, the father of Katrina Seaburn, and $6,853.75 to the Pennsylvania Victims Compensation Program.
Arner ordered Ditz to have no contact with Tammy Seaburn and to pay the cost of prosecution. Ditz must submit a DNA sample and submit to mental health, drug and alcohol evaluations.
The judge also ordered Ditz to be transferred to the state prison system facility in Greene County, Pa., from which he will be assigned to a state prison. Arner said he considered keeping Ditz in the Clarion County Jail but decided that wasn’t proper.
Prior to handing out the sentence, Arner explained his reasoning behind the sentencing, which could have gone to a maximum of 40 years and a minimum of five years on the murder three charge.
According to Arner, who said similar cases like this one have shown sentences between six and 20 years, while he was concerned that Ditz lied to police originally about what happened on the night of Seaburn’s death, he didn’t believe Ditz posed a significant risk to the public.
“Damien Ditz does not pose a risk of harm to the public,” Arner said. “This all arose from one incident and involved one victim.”
Arner did say he believed Ditz should be punished for the gravity of the offense and that the shooting impacted many people.
“This affected the family and friends of both parties,” Arner said. “But, there is no discernible evidence that it affected the community (outside of people’s feelings).”
The judge also noted that he hoped Ditz would be able to live a “useful” life after he is released.
“Hopefully, in time, he can use his experience to help others avoid similar ones,” Arner said.
In handing out his sentence, Arner noted that Ditz was remorseful about the killing and tried to render aid to Seaburn after she was shot while also calling 9-1-1.
Ditz’s attorney, Adam Bishop, had asked the judge to sentence Ditz to six to 12 years in prison.
“Overall, it’s a tragic situation all-around,” Bishop said. “We are satisfied with the sentence. Damien is, obviously, very remorseful.”
Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron had asked Arner to impose the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison to Ditz.
“Her mother and I asked the court to impose a significantly higher sentence than that, 20 to 40 years,” Aaron said. “I do understand there are mitigating circumstances. I would just say we were hoping for more.”
Prior to Arner making his determination, he heard from both Damien Ditz’s father, Fred Ditz, and Tammy Seaburn. Damien Ditz also made a statement.
A broken-up Fred Ditz asked Arner to “please have mercy for me.”
“I am so sorry,” Fred Ditz said. “My heart goes out to everyone. My boy is a good boy. He was no trouble growing up.”
Damien Ditz, who was dressed in an orange jumpsuit shackled at both his hands and feet, turned to a gathering of approximately 50 family members and friends of Katrina and made the following statement:
“I loved Katrina. I did not murder her. If she said jump, I said ‘how high.’ I was not an abusive monster.”
In addressing the judge, Tammy Seaburn said her life will never be the same.
“Damien took Katrina from us,” said Tammy Seaburn, who called her daughter a gift from God. “He has sentenced us to pain, heartache, loneliness. He deserves the same. My daughter is dead. My only child. It’s unbearable pain, literally heartbroken. It’s here to stay.”
While recounting her daughter’s life, Tammy Seaburn looked right at Damien Ditz and said, “You murdered Katrina. You took a 45-caliber Glock handgun that you knew was loaded with hollow-points and pointed it at her and pulled the trigger.”
Ditz fatally shot Seaburn, a Clarion University student from Curwensville, in her car, near a trailer park in the area of Lake Lucy, Washington Township, Clarion County, Pa., on March 1, 2017. Ditz was driving Seaburn’s car at the time of the incident.
The two, according to statements given to state police by Ditz, were having an argument over $130 that Ditz lent a friend, DaShon Smerker, who he considered a cousin, when the gun, a 45-caliber Glock, fell off the dashboard of the car, where it had been sitting since the night before, hit the console and went off killing Seaburn.
Later the same night, he changed his story and said the gun fell off the dashboard, he grabbed the gun and then it went off killing Seaburn.
But, in June of 2017, during questioning at the Ridgway-based state police barracks, Ditz again changed his story and said the gun fell off the dashboard, he placed it next to the console, and then during the argument over the $130, he picked up the gun to place it in the backseat and was waving it in the air and it went off killing Seaburn.
During the trial, Bishop painted the shooting as accidental and pushed for an involuntary manslaughter charge, while Aaron was looking for a first-degree murder conviction.
Bishop said he isn’t sure if Ditz will appeal the conviction or Arner’s sentence yet.
“That is something we are considering,” Bishop said. “But I have to talk it over with Damien.”
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