No. 215 April Term, 1978, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence entered on September 2, 1977 by the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at No. 119 C.R. 1976.
William M. Kern, Assistant Public Defender, New Bethlehem, for appellant.
Phillip L. Wein, District Attorney, Clarion, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cercone, Hoffman and Wieand, JJ. Cercone, J., concurs in the result.
[ 263 Pa. Super. Page 76]
On April 25, 1976, Donald Loy Detrie, appellant, escaped from the Clearfield County Prison with four other prisoners. He took with him a .38 calibre revolver and four cartridges which had been kept in a cabinet at the prison. On May 1, 1976, appellant and John Clair Lantzy, one of the escapees, stole a 1969 Ford in Clarion County. During the evening
[ 263 Pa. Super. Page 77]
hours of the same day the stolen vehicle was observed by Cpl. David M. Hauser of the Pennsylvania State Police. When he approached the vehicle for the purpose of investigating an apparent traffic violation, shots were fired at him from the car, which then sped away. On May 4, 1976, Detrie and Lantzy entered the home of Conrad and Coya Lam in Venango County, where they held the occupants hostage for several hours. During this time Detrie and Lantzy made statements which incriminated themselves in the shooting in Clarion County and disclosed their intent. They then commandeered the Lam family vehicle, in which they were apprehended later the same day.
Appellant was tried in Clarion County and convicted of attempted homicide, carrying a firearm without a license, recklessly endangering another person, and theft of an automobile. Following the denial of post trial motions and the imposition of sentence, he appealed to this Court. He argues that it was error to permit the prosecuting attorney to refer to and offer evidence of his, Detrie's, escape and theft of a weapon from the prison in Clearfield County. He also contends that evidence of his conduct in the Lam home and the statements there made should have been excluded because they were inseparable from additional crimes there committed. We find no merit in these arguments and affirm.
Appellant's escape from the Clearfield County Prison and the theft of a .38 calibre revolver were relevant as a part of the history leading up to and the natural development of those crimes for which appellant was tried in Clarion County. Evidence of prior criminal conduct was admissible because it "formed a part of a chain, or was one of a sequence of acts, or became part of the history of the event on trial, or was part of the natural development of the facts." Commonwealth v. Brown, 462 Pa. 578, 591, 342 A.2d 84, 90 (1975); Commonwealth v. Edwards, 318 Pa. 1, 178 A. 20 (1935); Commonwealth v. Williams, 307 Pa. 134, 160 A. 602 (1932); Commonwealth v. Showalter, 231 Pa. Super. 278, 332 A.2d 456 (1974); Commonwealth v. McKenna, 206 Pa. Super. 317, 320, 213 A.2d 223, 225 (1965).
[ 263 Pa. Super. Page 78]
This evidence of prior criminal activity was also relevant and admissible to show motive for committing the offense for which appellant was being tried. Commonwealth v. Coyle, 415 Pa. 379, 203 A.2d 782 (1964); Commonwealth v. Fishel, 251 Pa. Super. 528, 380 A.2d 906 (1977); Commonwealth v. Blackwell, 242 Pa. Super. 367, 363 A.2d 1316 (1976); Commonwealth v. Williams, 230 Pa. Super. 72, 327 A.2d 367 (1974); Commonwealth v. Albert, 198 Pa. Super.Ct. 489, 182 A.2d 77 (1962). His escape and flight from the Clearfield County Prison were relevant to demonstrate that he had a reason for stealing an automobile in Clarion County and for shooting at a policeman who approached the vehicle to investigate an apparent traffic violation.
Finally, in connection with charges involving the carrying and using of a firearm, it was relevant to demonstrate the source and manner in which appellant acquired the weapon which he was accused of carrying and using. Indeed, possession of the stolen ...