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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. BONNIE JEAN HEATH (06/19/81)

filed: June 19, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
BONNIE JEAN HEATH, APPELLANT



No. 430 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Criminal Division, at C.A. No. 1013 of 1976.

COUNSEL

Winifred H. Jones-Wenger, Philadelphia, for appellant.

William J. Haberstroh, Special Assistant Attorney General, Altoona, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Price, Brosky and Montemuro, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 288 Pa. Super. Page 121]

On January 31, 1977, appellant was convicted by a jury of robbery,*fn1 conspiracy,*fn2 and violation of the Uniform Firearms Act.*fn3 Post-verdict motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were denied and appellant was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of from ten to twenty years on the robbery charge and from five to ten years on the conspiracy charge. A concurrent one to two year term of imprisonment was imposed for the firearms violation. In this appeal from the judgment of sentence, appellant contends, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion by denying her motion for a change of venue on the basis of prejudicial pretrial publicity. For the reasons which follow, we are constrained to agree and thus reverse the judgment of sentence and remand the case for a new trial.*fn4

[ 288 Pa. Super. Page 122]

The charges against appellant arose from an armed robbery at the Shaw Oil Company, a gasoline station in Allegheny Township, Blair County, on March 11, 1976. During the robbery appellant's accomplice and subsequent co-defendant, Jeffrey Joseph Daugherty, shot and killed eighteen year old George Karns, the lone attendant at the station. After taking approximately $400.00 in cash, Daugherty and appellant drove south in a 1964 white Thunderbird bearing Michigan license plates.*fn5

On the following day, March 12, 1976, appellant and Daugherty were apprehended in Buckingham County, Virginia, shortly after the commission of an armed robbery of a small grocery store. At the time of their arrest, appellant and Daugherty were traveling in the same automobile they had used in Blair County. A search for the vehicle by the Virginia State Police produced the .25 caliber handgun used in the Karns homicide, as well as Karns' wallet and other items connected with various crimes committed in Blair County.

On March 20, 1976, criminal complaints were filed in Blair County charging appellant and Daugherty with criminal homicide, robbery, conspiracy, and firearms violations. Shortly thereafter, the District Attorney of Blair County instituted proceedings pursuant to the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (hereinafter Extradition Act)*fn6 to extradite appellant and her co-defendant from Virginia. On or about July 12, 1976, appellant and Daugherty were tried and convicted of armed robbery and firearms violations in Buckingham County, Virginia. Sentence was imposed, and appellant began serving her sentence at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland County, Virginia. By letter dated July 19, 1976, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of

[ 288 Pa. Super. Page 123]

Pennsylvania informed the District Attorney of Blair County that all of the extradition documents relating to appellant had been returned by Virginia. Enclosed with the July 19 letter was a copy of a letter dated July 14, 1976, from the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Governor of Pennsylvania advising him that appellant had been found guilty and sentenced by a Virginia court. The July 14 letter suggested that the Governor of Pennsylvania might "wish to proceed under the agreement on detainers." (N.T. 111, November 23-24, 1976). Shortly after learning that the extradition documents had been returned, the District Attorney of Blair County sought appellant's return pursuant to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (hereinafter Detainers Agreement).*fn7 Appellant and Daugherty were subsequently returned to Blair County on September 27, 1976.

Following a preliminary hearing on October 7, 1976, counsel for appellant filed numerous pretrial motions, including a motion to dismiss for violation of Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100 and a petition for change of venue. These motions were consolidated for hearing with motions filed on behalf of appellant in an unrelated case involving the robbery and murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Shank on March 9, 1976. After hearing all motions on November 23 ...


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