A cross-state spree murderer Mark Newton Spotz,
executed three women in three counties in three days while on the
run in 1995 after killing his brother.
All three women were killed during carjackings --Penny
Gunnet of New Salem, June Rose Ohlinger of Schuylkill County and Betty
Amstutz of Cumberland County -- and Spotz was sentenced to death for
Mark Newton Spotz, 38, was sentenced April 24,
1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New
Salem, his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and
Spotz also received death sentences for the murders
of June Rose Ohlinger, 52, of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71,
of Cumberland County. An execution warrant for the York County
conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet
murder in 2001 and that case is on appeal in York County court.
Mark Spotz, 35, had exhausted all his state
appeals in the killings of his brother and three women during a two-day
spree that spanned three counties.
Spotz shot his brother Dustin to death during a fight
at their mother's Clearfield County home on Jan. 31, 1995, then fled,
killing three women within 48 hours in Schuylkill, York and Cumberland
counties before surrendering to police in a Middlesex Twp. motel room.
He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in his
brother's slaying and sentenced to death for murdering the three women.
The last of his victims was retired Lutheran deaconess Betty Amstutz of
Harrisburg, whom he killed in Cumberland County. He also killed Penny
Gunnet of North Codorus Twp., York County and June Ohlinger of
Mark Spotz seeking new hearing
Convicted killer's lawyer claims district attorney
used fear to sway the jury during 1996 sentencing hearing.
York Daily Record
July 24, 2007
An attorney for convicted spree killer and death row
inmate Mark Newton Spotz argued Monday that District Attorney Stan
Rebert used religion and fear to sway Spotz's jury to issue the death
penalty in 1996.
In an attempt to preclude the need for a hearing in
September, Spotz's attorneys asked a York County judge - without the
benefit of evidence or testimony - to order a new penalty hearing.
Spotz was convicted of first-degree murder for the
fatal 1995 carjacking of Penny L. Gunnet, 41, of York New Salem. He also
was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing
June Rose Ohlinger, 52, of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of
Cumberland County during the same 48-hour period in February 1995. Those
killings were preceded by Spotz shooting and killing his brother, Dustin
Spotz, during a family argument.
Spotz, now 36, was not present at Monday's hearing in
York County Common Pleas Court before Judge John S. Kennedy, and no
evidence was presented to support assistant federal defender Robert
Dunham's claims about Rebert.
Dunham offered examples Monday of "religious"
references Rebert allegedly used during Spotz's penalty phase.
He noted Rebert said in his closing argument: "Did
Mark Spotz have a troubled childhood? I don't know that the commonwealth
would dispute that. But the commonwealth believes that when Dustin Spotz
was killed inClearfield County and when June Ohlinger and Penny Gunnet
were murdered, Mark Spotz became a man and put away childish
Dunham also noted that, when Spotz's grandmother
sought leniency from the jury, Rebert commented: "Are you at all
familiar with the Ten Commandments?"
Dunham said Rebert also told the jury that Spotz had
committed three burglaries and advised them, "One of the most
frightening things that can happen - a man intruding into your home."
Dunham said Rebert failed to inform the jury that the three homes were
empty at the time they were burglarized.
Dunham also said Rebert made a "blind inflammatory
assertion" that Gunnet's family demanded the death penalty, and that
Spotz would be a danger to society in the future if he received anything
less than the death penalty.
"Attorney Rebert was looking for a retaliatory death,"
Dunham said. "He repeatedly asked the jury to return a vindictive
verdict. He said, 'What we are asking you to do is to show him the same
respect he showed to ... Penny Gunnet.'"
Rebert was not at Monday's hearing.
Deputy Attorney General Jennifer A. Buck argued the
defense presented no case law or statute that supported the request for
a new penalty hearing. She advised the court that it could grant an
evidentiary hearing on the argument. (One is scheduled for September.)
But, she said, there was "no basis (Monday) for the relief the defense
Kennedy deferred ruling on the argument.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee,
MARK NEWTON SPOTZ, Appellant.
ARGUED: November 15, 1999
DECIDED: October 20, 2000
MR. JUSTICE CASTILLE
This is a direct appeal from a sentence of death imposed by the Court of
Pleas of Cumberland County. Following a capital jury trial, which
commenced on May 9,
1996, appellant was convicted of first-degree murder. At the penalty
phase, the jury found three aggravating circumstances and two mitigating
circumstances, and also found that the aggravating circumstances
outweighed the mitigating circumstances; accordingly, it returned a
sentence of death.
Post-verdict motions were denied and the trial court imposed the
death penalty. For the reasons set forth below, we now affirm the
conviction and judgment of sentence.
Although appellant has not challenged the sufficiency of the evidence,
performs a self-imposed duty to review the sufficiency of the evidence
underlying the first-degree murder conviction in capital cases. See
Commonwealth v. Zettlemoyer, 500 Pa.16, 26-27 n. 3, 454 A.2d 937, 942
n.3 (1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 970, reh. denied, 463 U.S. 1236
In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we must determine
whether the evidence admitted at trial, and all reasonable inferences
derived therefrom, when viewed in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth as the verdict winner, supports the jury's finding of all
of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See
Commonwealth v. Rhodes, 510 Pa. 537, 539-40, 510 A.2d 1217, 1218 (1986).
Evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction of first-degree murder
where the Commonwealth establishes that the defendant acted with the
specific intent to kill, that a human being was unlawfully killed, that
the person accused did the killing, and that the killing was done with
premeditation or deliberation. See 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502(d); Commonwealth v.
Mitchel , 528 Pa. 546, 550, 599 A.2d 624, 626 (1991). A specific intent
to kill may be proven by circumstantial evidence; it may be inferred by
the use of a deadly weapon upon a vital part of the victim's body.
Commonwealth v. Bond, 539 Pa. 299, 305, 652 A.2d 308, 311 (1995).
The evidence adduced at trial showed that on February 2, 1995, appellant,
on the run after committing multiple homicides in other Pennsylvania
counties, arrived in
Harrisburg and unsuccessfully attempted to sell rings stolen from one of
victims to his friend, Juan Maldonado.
Appellant told Maldonado that he
was wanted on
a homicide charge in Schuylkill County and that his gun was "dropping
them like flies."
After leaving Maldonado, and sometime before 4:00 p.m., appellant
abducted the elderly Betty Amstutz at or near her home in Harrisburg. Over the next few hours, appellant drove to various places with Ms.
Amstutz being held hostage, obtaining money, clothing, and lodging by
use of her credit card and checking account.
Thus, at 3:59 p.m. a bank
employee in Harrisburg, cashed a $500 check for Ms. Amstutz, who was
accompanied by appellant. A bank security camera filmed the transaction.
At approximately 5 p.m. an employee of a sporting goods store in
Cumberland County, sold appellant and Ms. Amstutz $262.05 worth of
Orlando Magic products, which were purchased with a credit card
belonging to Ms. Amstutz.
At 5:26 p.m. an employee of a Camp Hill bank,
cashed another check in the amount of $1,139.95 for appellant and Ms.
Amstutz. A bank security camera filmed that transaction as well. Finally,
at 6:04 p.m., Ms. Amstutz and appellant checked into the Knight's Inn in
Carlisle, Pennsylvania using Ms. Amstutz's credit card.
thereafter, at approximately 6:30 p.m. a woman and her daughter were
driving on McClures Gap Road in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they saw a
white male standing near a car matching the description of the vehicle
owned by Ms. Amstutz. The car was parked at the location where Ms.
Amstutz's lifeless body was discovered the next day.
Later that evening, appellant and a friend, Charles Carothers,
Rhinehart, the mother of appellant's two children, to join appellant in
his room at the
Knight's Inn in Carlisle. There, appellant, Carothers and Rhinehart
smoked crack cocaine
purchased by appellant. Appellant then gave $200 cash to Rhinehart and
Amstutz's car to Carothers. Carothers left Rhinehart and appellant in
the hotel room and
drove in Ms. Amstutz's car to the apartment of Rhinehart's sister and
The next morning, an employee of a tree service accidentally discovered
Amstutz's body on the side of McClures Gap Road and contacted local
investigated the scene and broadcast information concerning Ms.
Later that morning, Rhinehart's sister and her friend were en
route to the Knight's Inn to pick up Rhinehart and appellant, at
Carothers' request. The police stopped them because their vehicle
matched the description of Ms. Amstutz's vehicle. Police learned from
the two women that appellant was staying at the Knight's Inn.
Thereafter, a police team surrounded appellant's hotel room and, after a
standoff, appellant finally tossed his silver nine-millimeter
semiautomatic pistol outside of the hotel room, surrendered and was
A subsequent search of the hotel room
yielded a pair of bloodstained jeans, a knife, nine-millimeter full
metal jacket ammunition, and five credit cards issued in the name of one
of appellant's previous murder victims, Penny Gunnet.
In addition, a
note written by appel ant was recovered, which itemized the money
appellant had stolen and his expenditures on crack cocaine and other
At the bottom of the note, appellant had written, "a good day's work."
An autopsy performed on Ms. Amstutz showed that she had been shot nine
including one lethal shot through the neck and another lethal shot to
the head. A ballistics test showed that the ful metal jacket bullets
recovered at the scene of the murder and from Ms. Amstutz's body matched
Furthermore, appellant's fingerprints were found
on Ms. Amstutz's vehicle and an analysis of blood found on appellant's
shoe was consistent with Ms. Amstutz's blood.
Christina Noland established the chain of events that led to appel
ant's presence in
Harrisburg and his motive for abducting and executing Ms. Amstutz. On
January 31, 1995, Noland and appellant had fled from appellant's
mother's home in Clearfield County after appellant had shot his brother,
Dustin, during a family fight.
In need of a vehicle to escape, appellant
and Noland abducted June Ohlinger in Schuylkill County, stole her car
and later murdered her. The two then fled to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware,
in Ohlinger's car, where they attempted to alter their appearances.
Noland and appellant then returned to York County, Pennsylvania, where
they abducted Penny Gunnet, stole her car, and murdered her. Following
this murder, Noland and appel ant became separated and Noland returned
to the home of a friend.
The foregoing evidence overwhelmingly supports the jury's finding
that Ms. Amstutz was unlawfully killed, that appellant committed the
killing, that appellant acted with the specific intent to kill when he
shot Ms. Amstutz nine times, and that the killing was done
with premeditation and deliberation.
We now proceed to address
appellant's allegations of error...
Accordingly, we affirm the verdict and sentence of death imposed upon
by the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County.