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COMMONWEALTH v. BULTED (07/15/71)

decided: July 15, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BULTED, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Northampton County, June T., 1968, No. 188, in case of Commonwealth v. Samuel E. Bulted.

COUNSEL

John D. DiGiacomo, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Charles H. Spaziani, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Chief Justice Bell dissents. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 443 Pa. Page 423]

On May 25, 1968, at about 11:50 p.m., appellant, Samuel Bulted, entered the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, police headquarters and, according to witnesses, told an officer, "I shot and killed my wife." A detective was sent to the Bulted residence where he discovered the body of appellant's wife, Francesca Bulted, lying on the floor with her head propped up against the dresser. There was blood on her dress and the right side of her face was completely blown away. A twelve-gauge shotgun shell was found lying on the bed, and a gun, later

[ 443 Pa. Page 424]

    identified as belonging to appellant, was found in the bedroom.

After trial in November, 1968, appellant was convicted of first degree murder. After dismissal of his post-trial motions for new trial and arrest of judgment, appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment.

At trial, in addition to the facts outlined above, the Commonwealth offered the following evidence: Testimony of Mr. Atahoalpa Rodriguez, friend of appellant, who testified that on the evening of May 25, 1968, the appellant had asked him to drive him to police headquarters. While driving to headquarters, appellant had told Mr. Rodriguez, "I caught my wife with somebody else, and I want you to take me down to Headquarters"; testimony of a physician that the autopsy he performed showed that the bullet which killed appellant's wife had entered in the back of her neck and had traveled at a slightly upward angle to the front where it exited; evidence that the bullet had then traveled through a window of the Bulted home into a shingle in a home sixty-five feet away, where a rifle slug was found, together with a piece of shingle fragment at the base of that home; testimony of Juana Nieves, the decedent's sister, who stated that earlier in the evening of May 25, she and her mother has gone to the Bulted residence, where they had seen Mrs. Bulted crying. After appellant refused to permit them to enter they had gone home. Shortly after 11:00 p.m., appellant had gone to the Nieves' home, where, after getting the keys to his wife's car, he had told Miss Nieves, "You may go and get your sister. . . ." It was then that Miss Nieves had found her sister's body; evidence from Mrs. Francesca Camacho, the decedent's mother, that she had heard her son-in-law, the appellant, threaten her daughter prior to May 25, 1968, and that her daughter had told her that appellant used to hit her. The Commonwealth also offered into evidence a blood-stained green sport shirt

[ 443 Pa. Page 425]

    and underwear jersey, owned by the appellant, which were found in the bedroom where the body was discovered. A Pennsylvania State Police chemist testified that he had found human blood on the clothing, but he had not sought to identify what type blood it was. The district attorney hypothesized that the blood was the victim's and had splattered on the defendant after he had shot her. On the basis of this evidence, the jury found appellant guilty of murder in the first degree, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The appellant, taking the stand in his own defense, gave his own account of the events which led to his wife's death, wholly different from the ...


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