Meadville Tribune

Local News

February 12, 2013

Double-murderer wants robbery conviction tossed

MEADVILLE — Double-murderer Gary Wiley keeps fighting for his freedom by attacking a robbery conviction that provided the motive for his killings.

Wiley’s attorney said Monday he hasn’t given up even though Crawford County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Anthony Vardaro has ruled Wiley is not due a new trial for robbing OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller, and $350 in cash, from a Linesville drug store. Wiley murdered Tod and Laurie Prenatt because of their knowledge of the robbery. If the robbery conviction is overturned, so would Wiley’s murder convictions, confirmed Wiley’s court-appointed attorney, J. Wesley Rowden.

Vardaro found there are no genuine issues on any material facts in Wiley’s robbery case. Vardaro’s order states the appeal for a new robbery trial will be dismissed without a hearing within 20 days unless the defense responds within that time period.

Rowden said Monday he plans to respond to Vardaro’s dismissal order within the 20-day time period.

Wiley had appealed his robbery conviction, claiming his attorney at the robbery trial time didn’t give him effective representation.

Wiley was convicted of robbery, theft and terroristic threats in Crawford County court on Jan. 20, 2011, following a jury trial for the April 2, 2010, robbery of the Rite Aid store in Linesville. He’s currently serving a 20-month to 120-month jail sentence for those crimes.

In March 2012, Wiley was convicted by a Crawford County jury of killing Tod Prenatt, 51, and his wife Laurie Prenatt, 44, at their Linesville-area home on April 10, 2010, because the Prenatts knew Wiley had robbed the Rite Aid drug store.

Wiley’s attorney at the robbery trial, Robert Trambley, the county’s public defender, appealed Wiley’s robbery conviction on different grounds, but lost and Wiley’s robbery sentence was upheld by Superior Court Jan. 26, 2012.

On Sept. 4, 2012, Judge Vardaro appointed Rowden to represent Wiley after Wiley had filed his own appeal of the robbery case with county court, citing an ineffective counsel. Rowden also had represented Wiley during his March 2012 double homicide trial in county court.

In the appeal of Wiley’s Rite Aid drug store robbery conviction, Rowden claimed the robbery case wasn’t properly investigated by the defense prior to trial since Wendy Kemling, a potential alibi witness for Wiley, wasn’t interviewed.

In his ruling, Vardaro found there was nothing to indicate Wiley’s attorney was ineffective with regard to Kemling.

“There is no indication that anything that the defendant’s (Wiley’s) attorney had available would have suggested to him that Ms. Kemling was a potential alibi witness and there was no averment that the defendant (Wiley) told trial counsel that Ms. Kemling was with him at the time the robbery occurred and therefore she should be interviewed as a potential alibi witness.”

The appeal also claimed the defense failed to obtain the recording of the 911 call of the robbery that would have provided the exact time of the robbery. It also claimed the witness who made the original 911 call, Rob Anderson, provided statements that were inconsistent with those of witnesses that the prosecution used in identifying Wiley.

Vardaro ruled, “We do not believe that the information provided by Mr. Anderson in the 911 call would have been critical to the extent it would have changed the outcome of the trial.”

District Attorney Francis Schultz was happy with Vardaro’s ruling to dismiss Wiley’s appeal for a new trial on the robbery charges.

“The issues raised with regard to a new trial were without merit,” Schultz said Monday. “I’m pleased with the ruling.”

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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