Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division at CC No. 8403736.
Timothy E. Finnerty, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Dara A. DeCourcy, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Rowley, Wieand and Del Sole, JJ. Rowley, J., files a dissenting statement.
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 109]
Kathleen Dollman was tried before a jury in December, 1984 on a charge of criminal homicide. Although she argued a justification defense, the jury found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter and she was sentenced to a prison term of three to six years. This appeal followed the denial of her post trial motions.
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 110]
The bizarre facts in this case are as follows. A human skull containing a bullet hole was found on June 18, 1980 near the home of the Appellant. The residents of the neighborhood, including the Appellant, were questioned but the skull remained unidentified. Four years later, prompted by a call from an informant, Kathleen Dollman was arrested and confessed to shooting her husband. Police and forensic investigation confirmed that the skull found in June, 1980 belonged to Edward Weismantle, Dollman's husband. Dollman told police that she shot her husband on December 22, 1979 because of the abuse she and her children were suffering at his hands. She and her thirteen year old son, with the help of a fifteen year old neighbor, buried the body in the cellar of her home. A few months thereafter, her son (and co-defendant) hacked the head from the victim's body and placed it in a plastic garbage barrel. The family dog found the head in the garbage barrel and carried it off. This is how the skull happened to be found and the police alerted, although the skull remained unidentified for another three years. After the skull was discovered, the Appellant drove to Ohio and threw the murder weapon into a lake.
In 1982, Appellant and a friend named John Orlando disinterred the victim's remains and burned them in her fireplace. What evidence of the corpse remained was put into a bag and left for the garbage pickup. Appellant and Orlando watched as the garbage truck carted the bag away.
In 1984, a friend of the Appellant who knew of the crime told the story to a social worker who immediately informed the police. The Appellant was located in Nashville, Tennessee where she was arrested by the local police and brought back to Pittsburgh. Her son was arrested in Pittsburgh and he stood trial with his mother.
The first issue raised in this appeal by Kathleen Dollman is whether the lower court abused its discretion when it denied the Appellant's motion to sever her case from that of her son. She claims she was prejudiced by the joint trial because first, her son exercised his right not to testify at
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 111]
the trial and she thus was deprived of his testimony to support her justification defense; and second, his confession, which was admitted into evidence in redacted form, included material prejudicial to her. She claims the evidence that her son mutilated the victim's ...