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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Child molester
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 18, 1994
Date of birth: 1962
Victim profile: Shawn Hagan (male, 12)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Hazelwod, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 7, 1995

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Eastern Distric


opinion J-17-2003

Leroy Fears

Date of sentence: Feb. 7, 1995

What he did: Fears admitted he molested and strangled 12-year-old Shawn Hagan on the banks of the Monongahela River on June 18, 1994.


Leroy Fears

The execution of a Hazelwood man who was convicted of first-degree murder for the strangulation and sexual molestation of a 12-year-old boy has been scheduled for Dec. 8, 2005.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed a warrant Tuesday for the execution of Leroy Fears, 43, who admitted in a videotaped confession that he molested Shawn Hagan of Hazelwood on June 18, 1994 in an area along the Monongahela River known as Duck Hollow. Hagan had gone expecting a day of fishing, swimming and playing on a rope swing with a couple of friends.

Later that day, Fears lured Shawn to a secluded area of the river and performed oral sex on the boy. Fears then asked Shawn what happened and if Shawn was going to tell his parents.

Shawn threatened to tell and in fear, Leroy strangled him. After Haganís death, Fears had anal intercourse with him and then tied a tire rim around Haganís neck. Fears then threw the boyís body into the Monongahala River. His body was found floating in the river on June 21 with a tire rim attached to his neck.

Fears confessed to the murder of the boy, then took detectives to the scene and explained what had happened. Fears entered a guilty plea to the charges in December 1994 and was sentenced to die in February 1995.


History/Psychological Profile of Leroy Fears

David Lee

One summer day in 1999, Leroy Fears took Shawn Hagan of Hazelwood, PA and a couple boys down to the river for a day of fishing and swimming. Later that day, Leroy and Shawn went to a secluded area of the river and Leroy performed oral sex on Shawn. Leroy then asked Shawn what happened and if Shawn was going to tell his parents. Shawn threatened to tell and in fear, Leroy strangled him. After Haganís death, Fears had anal intercourse with him and then tied a tire iron around Haganís neck. Fears then threw the boyís body into the Monongahala River. Later, Fears confessed to the crime and was sentenced to the Death Penalty.

Ms. Caroline Roberto was the District Attorney for Fearsí trial. According to the official court briefing and Ms. Robertoís testimony, Fears did not get a fair sentence. The Public Defender pled Fears guilty of 1st degree murder and allowed only Common Pleas Judge David S. Cercone to present sentence. In the court testimony, Ms. Roberto cross-examined Dr. Ralph E. Tarter, the Clinical Psychologist/Neuropsychologist who examined Fears on October 1999.

The life story of Leroy Fears is tragic and sad. He was born prematurely to a 12-year-old girl. Shortly after his birth, he goes into cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure. His birth mother had no real contact with Fears after he was born so he was bounced around in foster care. When Fears was around 11-13 years of age, he was sexually abused and had what Dr. Tarter deemed attachment anxiety (inability to form attachment/anxiety to people or family). Fears was also schizoeffective which caused severe conditions such as hallucinations and paranoid thoughts, which Tarter states was triggered when Fears killed Hagan. Fearsí birth to a 12-year-old was also very abnormal.

In order to defend Fears, 2 particular psychological factors were brought up and examined by Dr. Tarter. The first was that throughout his life Fears was under the influence of extreme mental/emotional disturbance and second, that Fears had the capacity to appreciate criminality of conduct or conforming conduct to requirements of law. In Fearsí case, the above conditions were impaired. "He was acting under a diminished capacity which would mitigate crime from 1st to 3rd degree murder based on cognitive malfunctioning at the time of the crime," Roberto said. The entire diagnosis stated that Fearsí action was wrong, but based on his condition, he should not have had so harsh a penalty.

What are the reasons/evidence for Fearsí actions and the sentence he received? His long history of abuse and his psychotic episodes were the main causes for him to commit murder. According to the court testimony, Fears was never able to connect with his needs and emotions despite being brought up by his adoptive mother. The argument is that he was not brought up by his birth mother and rarely got in contact with her and being bounced around in foster care so many times helped to trigger his poor rational judgment and decision-making. No one was able to teach him the difference between right and wrong. His depression syndrome made him grow up slowly and immaturely both physically and mentally.

Dr. Tarterís diagnosis of Fears also determined that Fears might have had a psychotic episode at the time of Haganís death. There are also a few mitigating factors of Pennsylvania legislature regarding the Death Penalty. According to Dr. Tarterís diagnosis of Fears and Ms. Robertoís cross-exam, Fears had both circumstances, which should have exempted him from receiving the Death Penalty. Tarterís diagnosis further indicated that Fears was both under the influence of extreme mental/emotional disturbance and his capacity to appreciate criminality of his conduct or of the law was impaired. The conclusion was that Fears could not have been sane or under normal conditions at the time of the murder. Fears was a known pedophile and was convicted before of sexual molestation but never something as serious as murder. Many of the problems he had during childhood caused him to commit such violent and gruesome acts and he is paying the price. But does Fears deserve the Death Penalty?

Based on Dr. Tarterís research, Leroy Fears is an unstable individual who needs a lot of attention and help that he can get. Giving him the death penalty would not solve anything. Clearly, he admitted to the crime, but were his Miranda Rights read and acknowledged by him prior to his confession of the crime? His premature and unusual birth to a 12-year-old girl, intense emotional and psychological problems, abuse that he had received during his childhood and alcohol consumption prior to the crime should have been brought up in the judgeís decision. Haganís death was tragic and gruesome, but the community and the criminal justice system should not focus on giving Fears death. They should focus on treating the problems of child abuse and mental health conditions so that these incidents never happen again and cause a community to be angry and struggling to find answers.



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