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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LEON JEROME MOSER (10/14/88)

decided: October 14, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
LEON JEROME MOSER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania at Nos. 1583-85, 1583.1-85, and 1583.2-85 entered January 24, 1986 by the Honorable Paul W. Tressler, Honorable Louis D. Stefan and the Honorable William W. Vogel

COUNSEL

Edward F. Kane, M. Cathlene Driscoll, Norristown, for appellant.

Mary M. Killinger, Chief, Appeal Div., Fort Washington, Robert A. Graci, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Zappala

[ 519 Pa. Page 443]

OPINION

In accordance with § 9711(h)(1) of the Sentencing Code, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9711(h)(1), we are compelled to review the Appellant's judgment of sentence of death. After an extensive and at times exasperating colloquy, the Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and pled guilty to three counts of first degree murder and one count of possession of an instrument of a crime with intent to employ it criminally. The Appellant then waived his right to have a jury impaneled for the sentencing proceeding, 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711(b), and requested disposition by a three judge panel.*fn1 After reviewing all the evidence, the sentencing panel found two aggravating circumstances, that the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the offense while committing the subject offense and that the defendant had been convicted of another state offense committed at the time of the offense at issue for which a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable. The sentencing panel also found two mitigating circumstances, that the appellant had no significant history of prior criminal convictions and that he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disburbance at the time of the offense. Weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the panel determined that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and imposed the death sentence.

At the conclusion of the guilty plea colloquy, the Commonwealth offered the following evidence which would

[ 519 Pa. Page 444]

    have been presented if the Appellant had not waived his right to a jury trial and expressed a desire to plead guilty.

On April 26, 1969, the Appellant and Linda Schramm were married. Two children, Donna and Joanne were born during the marriage. After separating in December of 1983, the Mosers were divorced on September 13, 1984. The Appellant was quite distraught over the divorce, resulting in him becoming increasingly depressed as well as resentful and angry. He blamed both his wife and her parents for the break-up of his marriage and considered himself the victim of their lies and hatred.

On January 28, 1985, the Appellant purchased a 30.06 Remington Model 700 bolt action rifle. At the time of the purchase, the Appellant indicated he was purchasing the rifle for deer hunting even though the deer hunting season had passed and the Appellant was never known to go deer hunting.

On March 31, 1985, Mrs. Moser and her two girls, Donna, age 14 and Joanne, age 10, attended Palm Sunday services at the St. James Episcopal Church in Lower Providence Township. Prior arrangements had been made for the Appellant to take the girls from the church after the services and spend the afternoon with them. On that day, the Appellant placed his rifle in the back of his Toyota hatchback and backed his car into a parking place in the church parking lot. By backing his car into a parking place, the rear of his automobile was protected from view by shrubs and trees. After the church services, Donna and Joanne changed into casual clothing and met the Appellant and their mother in front of the Appellant's vehicle. A few words were spoken and then Appellant's ex-wife started walking back to the church. Joanne entered Appellant's automobile and sat in the back seat. Donna was standing in front of the automobile. Appellant then walked to the back of his car, removed the rifle and shot Joanne in the head. As a result of the noise, Mrs. Moser turned around and screamed "Oh my God." At that instant, the Appellant aimed and shot Mrs. Moser in the chest. The Appellant

[ 519 Pa. Page 445]

    turned again, took aim and shot Donna in the head. Having shot his ex-wife and two daughters, the Appellant then placed the rifle at his side and fired into the air. The Appellant fell to the ground as if shot, and remained there until the police arrived. Mrs. Moser and Joanne were dead at the scene, while Donna died at the hospital.

Pursuant to a search warrant, the police found an envelope in the car addressed to Mrs. Moser's parents, the Schramms, with the following written on it.

"Sometimes when you want everything -- you end up ...


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