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Commonwealth v. Gross

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

September 24, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
EMILY JOY GROSS, Appellee

Argued October 17, 2012

Page 29

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 30

Appeal from the order of the Superior Court at No. 2006 EDA 2010 dated 07/13/2011 which affirmed the order of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, at No. CP-45-CR-0000045-2010 dated 07/15/2010. Trial Court Judge: Jennifer H. Sibum, Judge. Intermediate Ct Judges: Kate Ford Elliott, President Judge Emeritus, Stephen J. McEwen,, Jr., President Judge Emeritus, William Platt, Judge

For Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellant: Elmer D. Christine Jr., Esq., Michael Mancuso, Esq., Bradley Andrew Schmidt, Esq.

For Emily Joy Gross, Appellee: Eric R. Breslin, Esq., George W. Westervelt Jr., Esq., Daniel Richard Walworth, Esq., Duane Morris, L.L.P.

MR. JUSTICE EAKIN. CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, ORIE MELVIN, JJ. Former Justice Orie Melvin did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Messrs. Justice Saylor and Baer, Madame Justice Todd and Mr. Justice McCaffery join the opinion. Mr. Chief Justice Castille files a concurring opinion.

OPINION

Page 31

MR. EAKIN, JUSTICE

The Superior Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of this criminal case for improper venue. Upon review, we conclude this was error, reverse the Superior Court's order, and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Emily Gross and Daniel Autenrieth began a romantic relationship in early 2009. On May 4, 2009, Autenrieth's estranged wife filed a protection from abuse (PFA) petition against him in Northampton County where she lived. The court issued a temporary PFA order the same day prohibiting Autenrieth from having contact with his wife or children and evicting him from the marital residence. The same day, deputies from the Northampton Sheriff's office went to Autenrieth's residence (also in Northampton County) to serve the temporary PFA order and to transfer custody of the children to Autenrieth's wife. Gross was present, babysitting the children, and a deputy served the order on her as the adult in charge of the residence. The deputy incorrectly told Gross the temporary PFA order prohibited Autenrieth from possessing firearms. Another deputy explained the PFA order's terms to Autenrieth over the phone. On May 18, 2009, a final PFA order was issued, which prohibited Autenrieth from possessing firearms.

Gross routinely stayed overnight at Autenrieth's residence, but she lived and worked in New Jersey. On May 21, 2009, she attempted to acquire a New Jersey firearm permit but was informed the process would take several months. On May 29, 2009, Gross obtained a Pennsylvania driver's license using Autenrieth's address; within hours, Gross and Autenrieth went to a Berks County store, where Gross used her new license to buy a 9 millimeter handgun. Later, at his residence, Autenrieth showed Gross how to use the gun, offered to clean it for her, then put the gun in its box and stored it and its ammunition above his washer and dryer. This was the last time Gross saw the gun, though a few days later she learned Autenrieth had taken the gun, fired it with a friend, and replaced the ammunition used; Gross made no objection.

On June 7, 2009, Autenrieth took the gun, went to his estranged wife's house, and kidnapped his nine-year-old son at gunpoint. Police were called, Autenrieth fled, and the chase went on for 40 miles, ending with a shoot-out in Monroe County in which Autenrieth killed one ...


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