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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HARRY LEE BAMBER (10/03/75)

decided: October 3, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
HARRY LEE BAMBER, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Frederick F. Coffroth, Dist. Atty., T. G. Saylor, Jr., Somerset, for appellee.

Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion.

Author: Manderino

[ 463 Pa. Page 218]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Harry Lee Bamber, was indicted and tried by a jury on charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to a term of not less than eighteen months nor more than six years in a state correctional institution. This appeal followed.

The victim of the homicide, Verdie Florence Craig, had cohabited with appellant for four and one-half to five years, living in a one-room dwelling, which was also used in connection with the appellant's business of collecting and selling scrap and junk. At the time of the homicide the victim was sixty-eight years old, and appellant was fifty-three.

The record indicates that appellant and the victim were heavy drinkers and engaged in frequent arguments. On Friday morning, June 8, 1973, the victim was seen outside the house by several neighbors. She was bleeding from the head and calling for help, loudly accusing

[ 463 Pa. Page 219]

    the appellant of striking her. One of the neighbors, Harold Dridy, testified that the victim had a scalp wound and that blood was coming out of her hair. Later that afternoon the victim got cleaned up, and some of the neighbors noted that she appeared to be all right as she was hanging clothing on the line. This was the last day that the victim was seen alive. Eight days later, her body was found, covered by a rubber mat, lying on the floor in the house in a badly decomposed condition.

From June 8, 1973, until the next Wednesday or Thursday, the appellant was seen entering and leaving the house. Neighbors who spoke with him, stated that he appeared unusually nervous and quite disturbed, but not intoxicated. He was very careful to meet visitors on the porch, locking the door behind him. Appellant explained the victim's absence by saying that she had gone to visit relatives in Virginia.

Appellant was last seen by the neighbors on June 13 or 14. On one of those days, he stopped at a nearby restaurant and told a waitress that he was going away, asking her to accompany him. The waitress testified that the appellant was not drunk, but appeared nervous. Another witness testified that she saw the appellant in front of his house at approximately 2:00 a. m., on June 16, with his truck. The body was found later that day by neighbors alerted by a stench coming from the house.

Appellant was found and arrested in West Virginia on June 20, 1973. In a tape-recorded statement made to the State Police appellant admitted hitting, or pushing, the victim with a shotgun on Friday morning, June 8. He also admitted that later that night he struck her twice across the nose and forehead with a vodka bottle, causing her to fall to the floor. He said that at first he thought that she was simply unconscious, and so went to sleep. When he awoke, and saw the victim still lying on the floor, he realized that she was dead, and placed the rubber

[ 463 Pa. Page 220]

    mat over her. This statement was later transcribed and introduced into ...


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