Pa. AG continues to oppose DNA testing, which one man claims would acquit him of the 1986 murder

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SUNBURY – The attorney general has once again resisted efforts by a Northumberland County man to obtain court clearance to conduct DNA testing of evidence he claims would acquit him of a 1986 murder.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher J. Schmidt has asked the state Supreme Court not to accept Scott R. Schaeffer’s appeal, who claims he was wrongly convicted of the murder of Rickey Wolfe.

Schaeffer, of the Sunbury area, is appealing an October Superior Court ruling that rejected a request for DNA testing as premature.

The verdict upheld the ruling of Lycoming County’s specially appointed senior judge Dudley N. Anderson, who also found that Schaeffer had failed to make it appear that the requested DNA test would prove innocence.

Schaeffer wants the Supreme Court to interpret what the legislature intended when it amended the Post-Sentencing Easement Act in 2018 to include those who served their sentences like him.

While the change allows DNA testing if there is a reasonable chance that it would produce exculpatory evidence, it did not change the deadline by which it must be requested.

Schaeffer’s lawyer Joel Wiest argues that it does not make sense for the legislature to allow the servants to have a DNA test without overriding the punctuality requirement.

Otherwise, requests like his client’s would be rejected as premature, he wrote when asking the Supreme Court to accept the appeal.

Schmidt argues that the higher court should not accept the appeal because Schaeffer argued before the lower courts that his application was not timely, the change did not change this requirement.

Schmidt further contends that the Superior Court’s memorandum does not provide any rare, special, or important reasons for granting a review.

The Superior Court concluded that Schaeffer’s first request for DNA testing, which he filed nearly 30 years after his indictment, was premature, he said.

The opinion did not address whether Anderson erroneously came to the conclusion that there was not a sufficient probability that a DNA test would lead to proof of actual innocence.

If the Supreme Court were inclined to look into this question, it would have to refer it back to the Superior Court, claims Schmidt.

The body of Wolfe, 30, from Mifflinburg, was found face down on December 12, 1986 in a pool of blood near his car on a state fish commission boat ramp along the Susquehanna River north of Montandon.

Schaeffer was one of five accused (two were acquitted) of beating Wolfe blindfolded, on his knees and with his hands secured behind his back.

The prosecution’s theory was that Wolfe was kidnapped and beaten to death for owing drug debts.

Schaeffer’s 1991 convictions of first degree murder and other charges, and that of William Lloyd Hendricks III, were overturned after co-defendant Robert Eugene Hummel said he gave false testimony under pressure from state police.

In 2004, Schaeffer and Hendricks pleaded not to contest the conspiracy to commit third-degree murder and the conspiracy to commit kidnappings. They were sentenced again to 10 to 20 years in prison, followed by 10 years probation. Despite serving the minimum, Schaeffer remained in prison for a total of 17 years before being paroled.

Schmidt claims DNA tests were available in 2004, but Schaeffer waited until 2018 to look for them.

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