Meadville Tribune

November 16, 2012

Third suspect pleads guilty in Shreffler murder

Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — A third young man charged with homicide for killing a Conneautville area man last year has entered a guilty plea in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.

Alan J. Watkins, 20, of 14354 Lexington St., Harmonsburg, pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon before President Judge Anthony Vardaro to third degree murder for the shooting death of Ronald Shreffler, 46, on Aug. 30, 2011.

Watkins is one of a total of four people charged by Pennsylvania State Police with Shreffler’s death during a robbery attempt at Shreffler’s Summerhill Township home on Abbot Road.

Watkins faces a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in jail when sentenced Monday, though District Attorney Francis Schultz said he won’t seek the maximum sentence due to Watkins’ cooperation in the case.

Two of Watkins’ co-defendants, Brandon Todd Tracy, 19, of 13525 Newtontown Road, Titusville, and Austin Lee Taylor, 19, of 14336 Lexington St., Harmonsburg, also are scheduled to be sentenced Monday in county court.

Watkins, Tracy, Taylor and Taylor’s younger brother, Dakota L. Taylor, 17, were charged by state police with plotting to rob Shreffler of a large amount of marijuana and cash, neither of which was found inside the home.

Tracy and Austin Taylor both entered guilty pleas in county court last month, while Dakota L. Taylor, 17, was processed through county juvenile court earlier this month.

State police said Tracy contacted the Meadville barracks of the state police Sept. 20, 2011, and admitted to shooting Shreffler, but Tracy also alleged to police that Austin Taylor was pointing a gun at Tracy’s head during the incident. Tracy has claimed to police he was forced to take part in the plan and shoot Shreffler or be killed himself, according to police.

On Oct. 12, Tracy pleaded guilty before Vardaro to charges of third-degree murder and conspiracy to commit burglary. The prosecution and defense have asked for a cumulative sentence of 25 to 50 years.

On Oct. 3, Austin Taylor, who was expected to take the witness stand at Tracy’s trial, pleaded guilty before Vardaro to one count of third-degree murder in connection with the case. He faces a sentence of 20 to 40 years when he is sentenced Monday.

Dakota Taylor’s case went through county juvenile court and he was adjudicated as an accomplice to third-degree murder, Schultz said. Dakota Taylor will serve in a state juvenile correctional facility until he is 21, Schultz said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at