Harve Johnson becomes the ninth man to sit on death row from York County
In 1995, Mark Spotz spits during his arrest after a killing spree, which started after an argument over a gerbil. Spotz was convicted in April 1996, of the Feb. 2, 1995, carjacking and shooting death of 41-year-old Penny L. Gunnet of New Salem. He also was convicted of the separate carjacking murders of June Rose Ohlinger, 52, of Schuylkill County and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County. Spotz received the death penalty for all three first-degree murders. He is one of eight defendants who committed crimes in York County who is on death row. (See details below.) Also of interest: A list of traumatic, painful incidents that rocked York County and Witman murder among York County’s most notorious crimes and Exonerated death-row inmate Ray Krone of York County hopes book will open eyes about capital punishment.
Even investigating police officers shed tears at the trial of the assailant in the death of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez.
On Monday, a jury agreed to the death penalty for Harve Lamar Johnson in connection with his fatal beating of Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend’s daughter on April 6, 2008. In addition to a video game cord, Johnson’s weapons included one of the girl’s hiking boots and his fists. The girl died at Hershey Medical Center the next day. (For a special documentary film on this case, please see Carrying Darisabel.)
York Daily Record/Sunday News court reporter Rick Lee provided those details as well as the following concise summary of this horrific case:
The trial: A York County jury convicted Johnson, 28, of first-degree murder Nov. 13, after four days of testimony, and sentenced him to death Monday following a penalty hearing. Neida Elizabeth Baez, 21, the girl’s mother, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for not intervening in Darisabel’s behalf. She has a plea agreement for a sentence of five to 10 years.
What’s next: Johnson’s conviction and death sentence are automatically appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Justices examine the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction and if the death penalty is supported by the circumstances.
Johnson becomes the ninth man on death row from York County. (Update: As of 10/31/13, the number of defendants sentenced to death since 1978 in York County stood at 12, with the death sentence handed down to Aric Woodard.
And here is Rick’s summary of the other eight death row criminals, as published in the York Sunday News (11/15/09):
York County death row inmates
— Paul Gamboa-Taylor, 49, was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18, 1991, hammer slayings of four family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2. He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger. His case is on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He remains at Green State Correctional Institution.
— Daniel Jacobs, 39, was sentenced Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992, stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs. Federal courts overturned Jacobs’ conviction and death penalty for Mock’s murder in 2005, ruling his jury should have been informed his mental deficiencies might not have allowed him to form the specific intent to kill Mock. While Jacobs continues to serve a life sentence for Holly’s death, York County Judge John H. Chronister found him incompetent to stand for re-trial for Mock’s murder. He remains at Green State Correctional Institution.
— Hubert Lester Michael Jr., 53, sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area. Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov. Tom Ridge and 2004 by Gov. Ed Rendell. His case is on appeal before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
— Mark Newton Spotz, 38, was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem, his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania. Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger, 52, of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County. An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001 and that case is on appeal in York County court.
— John Amos Small, 49, was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith, whose body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981. Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in October by Rendell. He is scheduled for execution on Dec. 16. Small filed a petition for a stay of execution before the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania on Oct. 30.
— Kevin Brian Dowling, 51, was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove. An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell. His case is on appeal in York County.
— Milton Montalvo, 47, was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel Montalvo, 46, was sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside the Cruz’s York apartment. Rendell signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July. His case is on appeal to the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. Milton Montalvo’s case is on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Pending capital prosecutions
— Nigel Maitland, 19, is awaiting trial for the May 10, 2009 shooting death of Ciara “CeCe” Savage, 9.
— Kevin Edward Mattison, 33, is awaiting prosecution for the December 2008 shooting death of Christian Agosto, 34.
For more details of others sentenced for capital crimes in York County, see Rick Lee’s York County still sending killers to death row .
*This post edited, 8/10/10.