Meadville Tribune

Local News

October 13, 2012

Guilty plea halts Tracy murder trial

MEADVILLE — Neither the prosecution nor the defense is pleased with the outcome, but a plea bargain accepted Friday afternoon has brought an abrupt halt to plans for a murder trial set to begin Monday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas. Jury selection, which had been scheduled to begin Friday, was abruptly canceled late Thursday afternoon.

The trial of Titusville resident Brandon Todd Tracy, 19, one of four men charged with killing a Conneautville-area resident last August in order to get drugs and cash, was canceled after Tracy pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree murder and conspiracy to commit burglary before President Judge Anthony Vardaro. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19; the prosecution and defense have asked for a cumulative sentence of 25 to 50 years.

Pennsylvania State Police said after the incident that Ronald Shreffler, 46, was shot during a robbery attempt at his Abbot Road home in Summerhill Township during the early morning hours of Aug. 30, 2011.

Police accused Tracy, Alan J. Watkins, 20, of Harmonsburg and brothers Austin Lee Taylor, 18, and Dakota L. Taylor, 16, of Harmonsburg, of plotting to rob Shreffler of a large amount of marijuana and cash, neither of which was found inside the home.

Tracy contacted state police Sept. 20, 2011, admitting to shooting Shreffler and claiming he was forced to take part in the plan and shoot Shreffler or be killed himself by Austin Taylor.

On Oct. 3, Austin Taylor, who was expected to take the witness stand against Tracy, pleaded guilty before Vardaro to one count of third degree murder in connection with the case. Austin Taylor faces a sentence of 20 to 40 years and up to a $50,000 fine for his involvement in the death when he is sentenced Nov. 19.

Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz told the Tribune Friday that a court hearing is scheduled Tuesday for Watkins. A hearing has not yet been set for Dakota Taylor.

All four remain lodged without bail in the Crawford County jail in Saegertown.

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