Spring Creek man sentenced in shooting death case
A Spring Creek man who shot and killed his neighbor was sentenced Friday to two to five years in prison.
Haggar S. Brewer, 58, was sentenced for fatally shooting Victor Van Tassel III, during a Monday, March 29, dispute.
“I did not intend Mr. Van Tassel to die,” Brewer said. “I am very sorry that he’s gone. He was becoming my friend.”
Brewer’s attorney, Robert Kinnear, said Brewer took “a gun to a fistfight.”
He had the gun with him because he had just been target shooting, Kinnear said. “My client was facing a bigger man… with a brain abnormality… he stands by what he had to do given his medical condition.”
Members of Van Tassel’s family spoke during the hearing.
His daughter, Desiree Van Tassel, and step-daughter, Marcelle Dyne, remembered Van Tassel taking them, and his grandchildren, on walks, teaching them to hunt, and enjoying spending time with them.
“He was always an active part of my life,” Desiree Van Tassel said. “It’s impossible for me to think of him without thinking of how he died.”
She said the “brain abnormality” cited by Kinnear was the result of an injury and had made her father, if anything, more gentle.
“He was not the aggressor,” she said. “His death was completely senseless.”
“This was not some unfortunate accident,” Van Tassel said. “This man went to my father’s house with a loaded gun and started a fight. When he heard someone yelling at his girlfriend, he defended her.”
She said she has suffered “debilitating panic” upon seeing people who look like Brewer since her father was killed.
Van Tassel said she understood there were maximum allowable penalties, but asked Judge Maureen Skerda to send Brewer to prison for as long as possible.
“I feel like we have a legal system, not a justice system,” Dyne said. “I feel like my Christian heart can forgive you, but my breaking heart will always have a hold in it. He was happiest around my children.”
“Everyone knows you don’t kill people,” she said, and described the situation as sinister. “From what I understand, Haggar had told him he was going to kill him at some point.”
District Attorney Rob Greene asked for a sentence in the standard range for the charge with the deadly weapon “used” enhancement.
“The maximum sentence the court can give you is five years,” Skerda told Brewer. “It is unfortunate this circumstance happened. The unfortunate nature of the circumstance doesn’t prevent the court from holding you accountable.”
Skerda passed down a sentence of 24 to 60 months in a state correctional institution — “the high end of the standard range” — with credit for 256 days served, a $1,000 fine, $375 in fees, costs of prosecution, submit a DNA sample to the Pennsylvania State Police, and to a no-contact order for involuntary manslaughter.