Warren man faces long sentence after pleading guilty to attempted murder

Keller Wolfgang

A Warren man faces up to 40 years behind bars after entering a guilty plea on Monday to a count of attempted murder.

Keller Reid Wolfgang, 34, Warren County Jail, was set to enter a plea last week but then raised questions about the difference between homicide and murder and his case was put back on the trial list.

He was back before Judge Gregory Hammond on Monday to plea for his involvement in a vicious August 2016 assault.

Wolfgang allegedly stabbed a woman who he had just met the day before “more than one time in the neck and back area,” according to the affidavit of probable cause, at an Eddy Street apartment before fleeing the area and heading to Erie where he was ultimately apprehended.

His attorney, Bernard T. Hessley, said last week that Wolfgang was going to plea after “extensive plea negotiations.”

He said on Monday that the plea would be entered “after further discussions with my client.”

Hammond then read Wolfgang his rights – informing him, among other things, that he will no longer be presumed innocent after his plea. Wolfgang acknowledged mental illness to Hammond but indicated that his illness did not impact his ability to understand what was happening in court.

In response to questions from Hammond, Wolfgang said the plea is of his own free will, that he was not promised anything regarding his sentence and that he was not threatened or coerced into entering a plea.

Hammond advised Wolfgang that attempted murder is an act which “constitutes a substantial step” towards committing murder. He detailed the three specific elements to the charge – that Wolfgang stabbed the victim in the neck and back, that he had a specific intent to kill the victim, and that Wolfgang was “conscious of your own intention” and that his actions were a substantial step toward murder.

Hammond asked District Attorney Rob Greene to detail the evidence he would have presented at trial to prove those elements.

Greene said that evidence would show that Wolfgang “attempted to kill” the victim, that he was at the victim’s residence by invitation and was “slashing her neck” and that he also attacked the victim with a wolf ring and “cut himself during the process (which) by his own admission caused him to stop” the assault.

Greene said at last week’s proceeding that Wolfgang bragged to a fellow inmate at the Warren County Jail that his intention was to cut the victim’s head off.

Hammond then asked Wolfgang if he admitted to repeatedly stabbing the victim, whether his intent was to kill her and whether his actions were a substantial step toward murder.

Each time, Wolfgang responded with one word – “Yes.”

Hammond said that enhanced attempted murder carries a 40 year maximum prison sentence and a fine of up to $50,000.

The charge of attempted murder carries a 20 year maximum sentence unless evidence shows that serious bodily injury occurred, in which case the maximum penalty doubles.

To exhibit that degree of injury, Greene said that the victim “still suffers today from those injuries and the trauma from the attack.”

Hammond asked Wolfgang if he admitted to causing serious bodily injury and Wolfgang said “Yes.”

Hammond then asked Wolfgang how he wished to plea.

“Guilty,” Wolfgang responded.

In exchange for the plea to attempted murder, charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person will not be prosecuted by the Commonwealth.

Prior to the plea, Greene told the Times Observer that the victim “has been consulted throughout and is in agreement with a plea to the most serious charge of attempted murder.”

A return of property hearing is currently scheduled for next week in the case, but Greene said that Wolfgang is just seeking the return of a cross necklace that was not part of the crime. He said Wolfgang would be allowed to have it and that there would probably be no hearing.

He deferred questions on the nature of the case to sentencing and added that the specifics of Wolfgang’s conduct would be presented at that time.