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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD STOYKO (04/17/84)

decided: April 17, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
RICHARD STOYKO, APPELLANT



No. 42 and No. 43 Western District Appeal Docket 1982, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at Criminal Action Nos. 526 and 527 of 1980, Dated July 1, 1982

COUNSEL

Anthony S. Dedola, Jr. (court-appointed), Uniontown, for appellant at No. 42.

Alphonse P. Lepore, Jr., First Asst. Public Defender, Uniontown, for appellant at No. 43.

Gerald R. Solomon, Dist. Atty., Samuel J. Davis, James T. Davis, John M. Zeglen, Asst. Dist. Attys., Uniontown, for appellee.

Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen,*fn* Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Nix, C.j., and Hutchinson, J., filed dissenting opinions. Former Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: Larsen

[ 504 Pa. Page 461]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On August 14, 1980, appellant, Richard Stoyko, was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal homicide for the shooting deaths of Shelby Jean Storm and Joseph Glad. These counts were consolidated for trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County and, on February 9, 1981, a jury found appellant guilty of two counts of murder of the first degree. 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2502(a).

Pursuant to the bifurcated procedures mandated by the Sentencing Code, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9711, a separate sentencing hearing was immediately conducted at which the same jury sentenced appellant to death for the murder of Shelby Jean Storm and to life imprisonment for the murder of Joseph Glad. Trial counsel filed post-verdict motions challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and alleging certain trial errors. The trial court also appointed additional counsel to brief and argue allegations pertaining to counsel's representation of appellant at the guilt phase of the trial.*fn1 Post-verdict motions were denied and this automatic appeal followed. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9711(h)(1), 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 722(4) and Pa.R.A.P. Rule 702(b).

[ 504 Pa. Page 462]

Appellant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for murder of the first degree. In evaluating this contention, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth and, drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom favorable to the Commonwealth, determine if there is sufficient evidence to enable the trier of fact to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Hudson, 489 Pa. 620, 414 A.2d 1381 (1980). So viewed, the evidence was clearly sufficient to establish appellant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as to both counts of murder of the first degree.

At 8:30 a.m. on August 12, 1980, Shelby Jean Storm, (appellant's common-law wife) picked up a friend, Maria Martin, at Ms. Martin's home in Republic. Ms. Storm then drove toward Uniontown where both women were attending classes at the Uniontown Beauty Academy. While enroute, Ms. Storm and Ms. Martin observed appellant following them in a blue automobile. (Other witnesses described appellant's vehicle as a blue Buick with temporary tags.) Between Fairbanks and New Salem, appellant passed the two women, pulled in front of them and slammed on his brakes. Ms. Storm braked and drove around him. Appellant then repeatedly bumped Ms. Storm's car from the rear with his car. At one point on New Salem Road, Ms. Storm pulled off the road and appellant followed her. Ms. Storm then pulled out and appellant continued to follow, harass and bump her vehicle. After Ms. Storm turned on Route 40, appellant repeatedly drove his car into the rear of her vehicle. Shelby Storm lost control of her car and it came to rest on a cement median strip in front of the entrance to the Uniontown Mall. Appellant pulled in behind her car, walked up to the driver's side, and fired a shotgun three times through the glass. Ms. Storm suffered two wounds, one a fatal head wound. Some of the pellets from the shotgun blast struck and wounded Ms. Martin.

Ms. Martin positively identified appellant as the driver of the car which followed them and as the man that shot

[ 504 Pa. Page 463]

Shelby Storm. Ms. Martin's account of the incident was corroborated by three motorists who observed the shooting and positively identified appellant as the man who shot Shelby Storm. Several other witnesses confirmed the details of Ms. Martin's account of the chase and described appellant's car, with only minor discrepancies.

Appellant fled the scene in his car which was "steaming badly". The Commonwealth's expert witness identified two spent shells found by the police at the scene as having been fired from a Winchester Model 1400 sixteen gauge shotgun later found by police in a vehicle which appellant had stolen from his other victim, Joseph Glad.

On the evening prior to the killing, Ms. Storm had filed a complaint with a District Justice charging appellant with harassment, and a warrant for appellant's arrest was issued upon that complaint. On that same evening, an acquaintance of appellant, James Groves, Jr., had visited him at the residence which appellant shared with Shelby Jean Storm to obtain the return of a sixteen gauge shotgun. Appellant declined to return the gun, informing Mr. Groves that "he couldn't take anymore . . ." and "she [Shelby] has to die."

On the evening of the day Shelby Jean Storm died, police discovered the body of Joseph Glad on a dirt road in German Township. Mr. Glad, who died from a shotgun wound to the head, had also suffered a non-penetrating wound to the chest. At the scene police found a blue Buick with a temporary registration in appellant's name and beer cans bearing appellant's fingerprints. The front of appellant's vehicle was damaged and police found paint chips from Ms. Storm's vehicle on it. Police also recovered two spent shells fired from the shotgun used in the Storm killing which was later discovered in appellant's possession.

About 10:05 p.m. of the next day, appellant turned himself in at the Uniontown City Police Station. At that time he made an oral statement in the presence of Lt. Jones, Sergeant Campbell and Officer Wright of the Uniontown City Police. Appellant admitted that he had killed Ms. Storm and Mr. Glad. He told the officers that he had

[ 504 Pa. Page 464]

    planned to kill Ms. Storm and that he shot Mr. Glad after he had asked Mr. Glad to move his pick-up truck and Glad did not do so. Appellant told the officers he had taken Glad's truck which the officers found in front of the police station. Inside the truck was the shotgun used in both killings. Later that night appellant made separate inculpatory statements to Trooper Lukachik and Trooper Holmberg of the Pennsylvania State Police. In his statement to Trooper Lukachik, he again admitted he killed Ms. Storm and said he killed "the man" because "his car was in the middle of the road and he wouldn't move it."

In his statement to Trooper Holmberg, appellant again admitted the killings but attributed the incident to his drinking and anger and said they were not premeditated. He told Trooper Holmberg he was upset because Ms. Storm was leaving him and he said that they had argued about his drinking. He also said that much of the incident was "a blur". He said he would have found a way to kill Ms. Storm even had he not had the shotgun.

At trial, appellant testified that he had lived with Shelby Storm on and off for seven or eight years and that they had a daughter. The night before the killing he put the shotgun in his car to take it to Uniontown because he had told Mr. Groves that was where it was, and "he didn't want to be a liar". That night he drank ten shots and five beers during a six hour period of bar-hopping and he then drank several shots and beers at home. Around 6:00 a.m. the next morning, he woke up and drank two shots, and at 7:30 a.m., he went to the Peacock Casino and had two more beers and three more shots.

He admitted he had followed Ms. Storm on the morning of August 12, but claimed he only wanted to stop her and talk to her. He said he was "angry and flipped out" from the alcohol. He claimed that after he left his car, his mind went "blank", but that he remembered getting out of his car and vaguely remembered pulling the trigger. Appellant also stated that he had seen another lady in the car with Ms. Storm.

[ 504 Pa. Page 465]

Appellant then testified that, after he shot Shelby Storm, he drove to a road off Gates Hollow Road because there was no noise or traffic and he wanted to "try to figure out what the heck went on." On cross-examination, appellant admitted that "his radiator was busted." He parked his car and drank a beer and "went to sleep" or "passed out." When he woke up, there was a pick-up truck behind his car. Its driver (the second victim, Joseph Glad) "mumbled something". Appellant panicked because he was "closed in" and shot Glad.

After this shooting, appellant took Glad's truck and drove around until he turned himself in the next evening. He claimed that his inability to remember the events immediately surrounding the killings (although he remembered clearly events prior and subsequent to the killings) was caused by his drinking.

Appellant's intoxication evidence, offered in an attempt to negate the intent necessary for a conviction for murder of the first degree, imposes no new burden on the Commonwealth and creates no new presumption for defendant which the Commonwealth must labor to overcome. Commonwealth v. Fairell, 476 Pa. 128, 381 A.2d 1258 (1977). The jury was free to believe any, all, or none of appellant's testimony as to his intoxication. Id.

Obviously, the jury rejected appellant's intoxication defense and concluded, upon abundant and sufficient evidence, that there was no reasonable doubt as to appellant's ability to form the specific intent to kill required to support a conviction for murder of the first degree and that he had, in fact, formed such an intent.*fn2

[ 504 Pa. Page 466]

Although neither trial counsel nor additional appointed counsel formally raised any issues regarding the penalty phase of the proceedings, this Court has an independent obligation to review the record of the entire proceedings.

Our standard of review of sentencing procedures in cases involving convictions for murder of the first degree is set forth in the Sentencing Code, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9711(h), which provides:

(1) A sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania pursuant to its rules.

(2) In addition to its authority to correct errors at trial, the Supreme Court shall either affirm the sentence of death or vacate the sentence of death and remand for the ...


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