Nos. 3 and 13 May Term, 1977, Appeals from the Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal of Mifflin County, at No. 122 of 1973 and No. 5 of 1974
Larry F. Knepp, Lewistown, for appellant.
Francis A. Searer, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Lewistown, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. O'Brien, J., files an Opinion in Support of Affirmance in which Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ., join. Eagen, C. J., and Nix and Manderino, JJ., would reverse the Judgment of Sentence believing the corpus delicti has not been established.
The Court being equally divided, the Judgment of Sentence is affirmed.
OPINION IN SUPPORT OF AFFIRMANCE
Appellant, Robert C. Tallon, was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter and robbery. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of five to ten years for each offense. A direct appeal from the voluntary manslaughter judgment of sentence was filed in this court. The judgment of sentence on the robbery conviction was appealed to the Superior Court, which certified that appeal to this court.
The facts are as follows. On July 3, 1973, the decomposed body of Daniel Sebolt was discovered on the floor of his apartment. Blood stains were on the pillowcase and the victim's eyeglasses and false teeth were found in the bed sheets. Both the victim's wallet and change purse were missing. The state of the body's decomposition indicated that the victim had been dead for a week, but an autopsy did not reveal the manner or cause of death.
At the time the body was discovered, appellant was incarcerated in Akron, Ohio on unrelated charges. He sent a letter to the Sheriff of Mifflin County, site of this homicide, which led to an investigation culminating in appellant's arrest. He gave two confessions, one while in the Akron jail and one after returning to Mifflin County. In both confessions he stated that he and the victim were arguing when appellant began choking the victim. Appellant told police he then took the victim's wallet. When he discovered that the wallet contained no money, he threw it into the river.
Appellant first claims that the trial court erred in admitting his confession because the Commonwealth had failed to first establish the corpus delicti of the crimes for which he was charged. We do not agree.
Our corpus delicti rule*fn1 was first set forth in Gray v. Commonwealth, 101 Pa. 380, 386 (1882), where we stated:
". . . when the commonwealth had given sufficient evidence of the corpus delicti to entitle the case to go to the jury, it is competent to show a confession made by the prisoner connecting him with the crime. Under such circumstances the jury should first pass upon the sufficiency of the evidence of the corpus delicti. If it satisfies them beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime has been committed, then they are at liberty to give the confession such weight as it ...