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Blair County judge severs trial in Shari Lee Jackson murder case

Blair County Judge Jolene Kopriva ruled this week the trials of two people involved in the May 2001 murder of 20-year-old Shari Lee Jackson will be severed.
Jury selection in the case was scheduled to begin Monday in Venango County after Kopriva ruled that a fair trial could not be completed with a Blair County jury due to extensive media coverage. Now, because there will be two separate trials, court officials will need to pick two juries when in Franklin next week.
Kristin Marie Edmundson, 21, of Duncansville, who police say killed Jackson, and Amanda Speicher, 22, of Boswell, were scheduled to be tried together beginning Feb. 3. Speicher is accused of helping Edmundson dispose of the body the day after the killing.
Kopriva felt selecting a single jury to hear both cases would be a confusing issue.
Two others are also involved in the case: Marie Louise Seilhamer, 21, of Ashville is also charged with first-degree murder for her participation in the crime, and Scott Alan Custer, 24, also of Boswell, is charged with hindering apprehension and prosecution.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Seilhamer and Edmundson drove Jackson to a pull-off area in Clearfield County where, police say, Seilhamer repeatedly struck Jackson with a wooden baseball bat.
The affidavit also states Edmundson slit Jackson’s throat with a box-cutter style knife after the beating was over.
The women then loaded the body in a truck and transported the corpse a short distance, over the Blair County line.
The body was burned the next day by Edmundson and Custer, according to police. Police said Speicher was charged with conspiracy because she agreed to conceal items used in the commission of the murder and conceal items owned by the victim, police said.
If Edmundson and Seilhamer are convicted, they could receive the death penalty.
Custer entered a guilty plea in December to charges of hindering apprehension or prosecution, abuse of a corpse and criminal conspiracy. The agreement was for a “time-served” sentence, which Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman computed to about 15-months’ incarceration.
“This sentence is in the aggravated range for the crimes he is charged with,” said Gorman in December. He said that although the plea agreement was signed, it “in no way” means the sentence will be accepted.
Gorman said Custer agreed to testify in the trials of the others involved in the crime in exchange for the plea agreement. Should he decide not to testify, the commonwealth can pull the agreement and proceed with trial for Custer.