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Discussing my correspondence with serial killer/blue beard Timothy Boczkowski and reading his letter.
The court ordered Timothy Boczkowski, 48, to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Nov. 7, 1994, strangulation of his 36-year-old wife, Maryann.
The 5-1 ruling upheld the first-degree murder conviction against Boczkowski, who also has been convicted of murdering his first wife, Elaine, 34, in a bathtub in North Carolina in 1990.
The court said the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office erred in allowing Boczkowski to be tried for the North Carolina murder first.
The 1996 first-degree murder conviction in North Carolina for Elaine’s death was the sole legal basis for the Pennsylvania death sentence. The court said Boczkowski should have been tried first in Allegheny County, so the death penalty verdict on May 6, 1999, was invalid.
James Herb, Boczkowski’s lawyer, said he was pleased that the death penalty was overturned. ..”But we are disappointed the court did not grant him a new trial,” Herb said, adding that he will review the ruling before deciding on an appeal.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. issued a statement saying the error in the case occurred before he took office in 1998.
Unless there are new developments in the case, the statement reads, “I accept the opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as the final statement in this matter.”
The North Carolina and Pennsylvania murders — the former by chest compression and the latter by manual strangulation — became entwined soon after police found Boczkowski trying to revive Maryann in a hot tub at their home.
North Carolina officials charged Boczkowski with the 1990 murder of Elaine after his arrest in Allegheny County and asked for his extradition. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Durkin agreed to extradite Boczkowski, but only after he was tried in Pennsylvania.
According to yesterday’s ruling, then-Deputy District Attorney W. Christopher Conrad wrongly circumvented Durkin’s ruling and allowed Boczkowski to be sent to North Carolina for trial.
“When a governing court order exits,” Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in the opinion, “it is for the court and not a party to unilaterally modify or nullify that order.”
Conrad, now in private practice, said his memory of the case is unclear, but he can’t imagine that he would have allowed a prisoner to be extradited in violation of a court order.
Conrad said he does remember that the Pennsylvania case was bogged down in procedural issues and that North Carolina authorities were worried about missing deadlines for prosecuting Boczkowski.
“One thing is for certain,” Conrad said. “It wasn’t done to orchestrate the death penalty.”
Justice J. Michael Eakin agreed that the guilty verdict should be preserved, but wrote in a dissenting opinion that the death penalty should not have been overturned.
There was no evidence, Eakin said, of malicious intent behind the decision to extradite Boczkowski.
Herb said he believes the Allegheny County jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence about the death of Boczkowski’s first wife during the trial into the death of his second wife.