A brief look at the major crime stories from 2017
Here are some of the most prominent crime stories reported in the Times Observer in 2017:
April 29: Life without parole — James McDaniel pleads, sentenced for murder of Marcus Mattson
James A. McDaniel entered a plea of guilty to a charge of murder in the first degree in the February 2016 death of Marcus Mattson.
In exchange for pleading to murder, District Attorney Rob Greene agreed to take the death penalty off the table and not prosecute the other charges McDaniel was facing — reckless burning or exploding; conspiracy — reckless burning or exploding; theft by unlawful taking; abuse of a corpse; and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
“Pleading to first degree murder is a just resolution to this case,” Greene said.
When given an opportunity to make a statement prior to sentencing, McDaniel declined.
From that, “the court can conclude that there’s really no remorse,” Skerda said. “You seem to be comfortable with the sentence.”
“There’s nothing that the court can do to bring back Marcus,” Skerda said. “Nothing is more important to this court than seeing justice is done for the victim in this case.”
The only sentencing options for first-degree murder are death or life in prison; with a fine of up to $50,000.
“You are sentenced to a period of life without the possibility of parole in a state correctional institution,” Skerda said. “That sentence begins today.”
In June, His half brother was sentenced to nearly two years in state prison for his involvement.
Gary Ralph Williams, 24, North Cambria, Pa., became involved with the case originated when they found that he had rims on his vehicle that had apparently been taken from the vehicle Mattson had last been seen driving.
According to court documents, McDaniel “implicated (Williams) in the arson of the vehicle” Mattson was last seen driving before his death.
“What you did was wrong,” Skerda reiterated. While she acknowledged that he did not commit the more serious crimes involved in this case, she said that Williams “committed crimes that compromised the investigation.”
June 23: Homicide charges detailed
The children were home when their father allegedly went out to the car, killed their mother, and shot himself, according to police.
Jessica L. White, 32, of Chandlers Valley, was killed Wednesday, suffering multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and leg.
Pennsylvania State Police charged her husband, Matthew B. White, 34, with criminal homicide in her death.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Matthew White went outside when Jessica White arrived home shortly after 5 p.m.
At 5:09 p.m., state police responded to a 911 hangup call from the White’s 5390 Brown Hill Road home.
The first trooper at the scene said he saw Jessica White in the driver’s seat of a red Honda Civic. She was unresponsive and “appeared to have numerous gunshot wounds to her torso,” according to the affidavit.
Jessica White was pronounced dead at Warren General Hospital.
At the scene, police found several .40-caliber shell casings and a .40-caliber handgun registered to Matthew White, according to the affidavit.
The gun was found near a pool of blood at the back of the house, police said. A trail of blood led from there to the passenger side of the car.
Information regarding the case was sealed in November.
July 1: Jailbreak Fail – Inmates busted trying to break out of Warren County Jail
Three Warren County Jail inmates – one since sent to state prison – face new charges for an alleged destructive escape attempt.
Casey Charles McClain, Sheffield; Joshua Darryl Wightman, Warren and Joshua Paul Morgan, Warren, were charged on Friday by City of Warren police.
An internal investigation conducted by prison staff found that sometime on June 20, the three men “disassembled a flushing unit in the 3 Dorm bathroom and used items to make a hole large enough to crawl through.”
The internal investigation determined that McClain, Wightman and Morgan “were the three inmates that left the housing unit and crawled along the walls and ceiling of 3 Dorm and an adjacent dorm looking for possible ways of escape and ways to communicate with other inmates in the adjacent block. There were several items taken from inside the walls which could be used as weapons and implements of escape such as a long metal pick type tool, a heavy metal bracket and a long silver metal or tin bracket and a trouble light with a long cord.”
Also found inside the wall, police allege, were several bags of fermenting fruit which the men were attempting to make into alcohol.
July 15: Look of a ‘sociopath’ – Wolfgang sentenced to max of at least 20 years for attempted murder
“It can’t be because daddy didn’t care.”
That was part of the hammer that Judge Gregory Hammond dropped on Keller Wolfgang on Friday.
Wolfgang, 34, was sentenced by Hammond on a count of criminal attempt (murder) stemming from a 2016 assault where he 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.
As a result, he will spend at least the next 20 years in state prison, Hammond ruled.
“This is a monster who attacked her and tried to cut her head off,” Rob Greene said.
“I’m not a monster,” Wolfgang said, arguing he was also not a killer. “I’m glad I finally get a chance to defend myself.”
He said that if he could take the night back for the victim he would and argued that the incident “would never have transpired” if he had received appropriate mental health treatment.
Hammond said that the victim’s statement is “heartbreaking” for her but disturbing regarding his actions.
He specifically noted Wolfgang looking at her as the life was dripping from her. He suggested that might be the look of a “sociopath.”
“You’ve changed the course of her life,” Hammond said. He mentioned Wolfgang’s social media posts and text messages in the immediate wake of the assault, in which Wolfgang said that he had ruined his life and was “covered in blood.”
October 28: Buffalo man sentenced to 10 years in state prison for burglary, assault
A Buffalo, N.Y. man who pled guilty to burglary and aggravated assault stemming from an August 2016 incident in Pleasant Township will spend at least the next 10 years behind bars.
LaRoy D. Hough, 38, was sentenced by President Judge Maureen Skerda in October
The incident occurred on August 13, 2016 at two residences on Pleasant Drive – 3326 and 3411 – as well as at 2581 Lenhart Rd.
The truck, stolen and driven by Hough, allegedly crashed off the side of the roadway as he approached the resident.
Hough and the resident, police said, “engaged in a brief physical altercation” which ended when Hough threw the victim to the ground.
Hough, police allege, “then jumped into the second truck and attempted to flee the scene. In doing so, he ran the leg (of the man) over, throwing his body forcefully to the ground, breaking his ribs and sternum and collapsing his lung.”
Hough then addressed the court and said that he “grew up in a much different environment” than Warren County.
He said he was traveling through the area and was held at gunpoint by the first victim and explained that he was “shooken up while fleeing. When I stole the vehicle, I didn’t think I would hurt anybody. I do care because I didn’t plow into him with his own truck.”
“Some of my survival skills aren’t the best they can be,” he added. “I can admit to being wrong.”
Skerda detailed his prior record, which includes trespass, burglary, arson, contraband, theft and possession of stolen property, resulting in seven different jail sentences.
“It’s a long history,” she said. “Despite beginning with probation… you continued to escalate your criminal behavior…. Most of your adult life you have had criminal behavior.
Hough was then sentenced to a total of 124 months to 378 months in state prison.