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Seilhamer jury deliberations continue in first degree murder case

For nearly six hours last evening, a weary-eyed jury deliberated the fate of a 21-year-old Ashville RD woman accused of killing a Hollidaysburg woman two years ago. As of press time today, a verdict still hasn’t been handed down.
Presiding Judge Jolene Kopriva dismissed the jury to deliberate at approximately 9 p.m. yesterday. It was allowed to stop deliberations at about 2:30 a.m. today and retire to the hotel where it was being sequestered.
Deliberations continued this morning at 9 a.m.
Marie Seilhamer is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 20-year-old Shari Lee Jackson on May 6, 2001. If convicted, Seilhamer could receive the death penalty.
Seilhamer’s accomplice, 22-year-old Kristin Marie Edmundson, has already entered a guilty plea on first-degree murder charges. She saved herself from the death penalty by entering the plea. She will serve the rest of her life behind bars.
The deliberating jury has a tough road ahead of it. It must weigh five days worth of evidence in the case.
Perhaps the most crucial testimony for the defense came on Wednesday.
Amanda Speicher, 20, of Boswell, told the jury that Edmundson called her on May 6, 2001 and said she was thinking about committing suicide. She said her and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Scott Custer, also of Boswell, drove to Edmundson home to comfort her.
Speicher said when she arrived, Edmundson had a gas can and shovel ready and wanted to go for a ride. She said the three traveled to an area along Janesville Pike and eventually wound up in a clearing where a body was covered with leaves, twigs and other debris.
Speicher said Edmundson had told her she only “beat up” Jackson, but when Speicher attempted to get a pulse from the body, there was none.
She said once she realized there was no life in the body, she became ill and moved away from the area while Edmundson and Custer set the body on fire.
Speicher said on the ride back, Edmundson told her that after Jackson awoke from the blow Seilhamer delivered with a baseball bat, she slit the woman’s throat with a box cutter and finished killing her by hitting her with a shovel.
District Attorney Dave Gorman said Edmundson’s story to Speicher couldn’t be believed because Edmundson lied to her to help her dispose of evidence.
Speicher pleaded no contest in January to hindering prosecution and served two months in prison. Custer also entered into a plea agreement for his role in the crime and was sentenced to a “time served” sentence, computing to about 15 months incarceration.
Prior to Speicher’s testimony, Gorman called forensic pathologist Dr. Sara Lee Funke of Allentown to provide testimony detailing Jackson’s death.
Funke told the jury that Jackson’s wounds were consistent with a blow from a baseball bat, a weapon Gorman said Seilhamer used. Funke said Jackson was struck twice with the bat – once in the side, once on the side of her head. She said the blow to the head knocked the Hollidaysburg woman unconscious and eventually killed her.
Funke also said the throat slashing caused enough injury for death, but noted that Jackson was nearly dead when the slashing took place.
Yesterday, Seilhamer’s defense attorney, Thomas Dickey of Altoona, called a different pathologist to the stand to refute Funke’s testimony.
Dr. Paul J. Hoyer of Philladelphia, who testified for the better part of five hours yesterday, told jurors the wounds Jackson suffered were not consistent with a strike from a baseball bat. He claimed that because of the bone fragments below the striking point, the wounds would have had to been caused by a blow with a shovel.
Previous testimony showed Edmundson brought the shovel to the site. Prosecutors said it was Edmundson’s and Seilhamer’s plan to kill Jackson, dismember the body then bury the body parts.
However, testimony revealed Edmundson had forgot to bring along a hatchet to dismember the body and the shovel handle broke in the hard-packed earth.
During closing arguments, Gorman told the jury to use common sense and weigh the evidence that was presented during trial. He said Seilhamer played “a pivotal role” in the murder.
Dickey was energetic during his closing arguments, kneeling on the floor as he role-played Edmundson striking Jackson repeatedly with the shovel.