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COMMONWEALTH v. SITES (11/14/67)

decided: November 14, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SITES, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Lebanon County, Dec. T., 1965, No. 1, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Dennis Terry Sites.

COUNSEL

H. Rank Bickel, Jr., with him Edward H. Miller, for appellant.

R. Hart Beaver, Assistant District Attorney, with him Alvin B. Lewis, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen.

Author: Eagen

[ 427 Pa. Page 488]

The appellant, Dennis Terry Sites, was convicted by a jury in Lebanon County of murder in the first degree, and the punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Following dismissal of a motion for a new trial and imposition of sentence in accordance with the jury's verdict, an appeal was filed with this Court. We reverse the judgment and order a new trial.

Carrie Batdorf Layser was found slain in her home in Richland, Lebanon County, on the early morning of December 24, 1965. An autopsy indicated that death occurred between the hours of 10 p.m., December 23rd, and 5 a.m., December 24th. Police investigating officers learned that a 1958 Chevrolet sedan, fitting the description of one owned by Sites or his wife, was seen in the driveway of the Layser home during the early morning hours of December 24th.

On December 25th, two investigating officers, seeking to ascertain if Sites owned such an automobile, questioned him at his apartment. No warnings concerning his constitutional rights were given Sites at this time, but nothing of an incriminating nature was then disclosed by him.

On December 26th, the district attorney of Lebanon County, after reviewing the evidence then at hand with officers investigating the case, decided that Sites should be questioned further in connection with the crime. Two officers were dispatched to locate him for this purpose. He was found at his father-in-law's home, was requested to return with the officers to his own apartment for the purpose of discussing the case, and he agreed.

Before any questioning began at his apartment, Sites was warned by the officers that he had the right to remain silent. He was further advised that anything he did say would be used against him in court

[ 427 Pa. Page 489]

    and also that "he had the right to be represented by counsel."*fn1

In answer to questions concerning his whereabouts on the night of December 23rd and the morning of December 24th, Sites initially made misleading statements. As the questioning continued, however, he admitted waking up in his automobile in the driveway of the Layser property on the morning of December 24th with his ...


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