BREAKING NEWS: DA will not pursue death penalty in Cochranton homicide

Submitted Fri, 08/24/2012 - 6:51pm by Andy Alm

Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz announced today that the criminal homicide case against 20-year-old Ashley Barber and 19-year-old Jade Olmstead will be a first-degree murder prosecution, but that the facts of the case do not support seeking the death penalty under Pennsylvania law.

The women, both living in Cochranton, are accused of brutally killing 20-year-old Brandy Stevens, of the Boardman, Ohio area and burying her body in a shallow grave near their Drake Hill Road home.

“After careful consideration of the law and the facts that have been uncovered in the investigation of this case, I have decided not to seek the death penalty against either defendant,” stated Crawford County District Attorney Francis J. Schultz.  “Although the allegations surrounding the murder of Brandy Stevens suggest that the attack that led to her death was brutal, those allegations alone are not sufficient to warrant the seeking of the death penalty under Pennsylvania law.”

Pursuant to the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a prosecutor may only seek the death penalty in a case of an alleged first-degree murder if at least one of eighteen aggravating circumstances is present.

“In this case there is no evidence to prove any of the death penalty’s qualifying aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Schultz.  “This decision was not one that was made lightly or without first consulting other prosecutors in my office and the Pennsylvania State Police.”

Schultz noted he has also spoken with the family of Ms. Stevens.

The Office of District Attorney will be seeking murder in the first-degree convictions that carry a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment against both Defendants.

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