CLEARFIELD – A man sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a woman abducted from the DuBois Mall in 1989 was back in court Tuesday.
Christopher A. Weatherill, now 50, was only 17 years old when he and Daniel L. Crispell, now 51, kidnapped, robbed and murdered Ella M. Brown, 48, in October of 1989.
According to previous reports, Crispell, then 19 years old and Weatherill took her to a remote location in Sandy Township where she was stabbed to death.
They then fled the area in her vehicle and were later taken into custody in Arizona after Crispell was caught trying to steal a purse from another woman.
Both men claimed the other had stabbed the victim. Later it was revealed that Crispell told a cellmate that he had killed her.
Weatherill’s case came back for resentencing following a Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruling in 2017 that says juveniles convicted of first-degree murder can only be given life without parole sentences in rare cases when “the juvenile offender is permanently incorrigible and thus is unable to be rehabilitated,” according to court documents.
Several older cases were sent back to the county court for consideration, including Weatherill’s. The key point in each of these instances is proving they have been or can still be rehabilitated.
After several hearings reviewing his prison records and other information, in October of 2021, Senior Judge David E. Grine sentenced Weatherill to 50 years to life in prison for murder, 10 to 20 years consecutive for kidnapping and 10 to 20 years concurrent for robbery, according to a previous article.
Later the case was appealed and reassigned to Senior Judge Timothy P. Creany of Cambria County, who determined that the record did not contain specific reasons to support this sentence.
He asked the Superior Court of Pennsylvania to remand the case “for further proceedings,” according to a letter supplied by the district attorney’s office.
These proceedings included a hearing in August and one on Tuesday, which featured testimony from Dr. Stephanie Rock, who evaluated Weatherill in September of 2020.
It was noted that she had previously testified in a hearing in April of 2021.
Weatherill’s attorney, Jason Dunkle, questioned her about a meeting she had with him on Oct. 6, which was to determine if he had changed. She found nothing about him to be different.
She outlined his childhood during which his mother abandoned him and his brothers for six years. She described this as a “traumatic” experience for him. This left him feeling as if he didn’t belong, impacted his cognitive decision-making and ability to handle different emotions.
All of this and his substance abuse put him at a high risk of going on a “bad path,” Dunkle asked and Rock agreed.
His life with his father and stepmother lacked warmth, care, structure and accountability. Weatherill’s perception was that his step-siblings were treated better than he was treated, they noted.
As a result, he “did not know where to turn if there was trouble,” she said.
“He had a pattern of following older youths into problematic behavior,” Dunkle stated and Rock said yes.
It was noted that Weatherill did not have a realistic view of his future and wanted to be a rock star. When he met Crispell, who was older, he was living in a van and the two decided to go to California.
In her original report, she concluded that his likelihood of committing a violent crime in the future was low, and she said she still agrees with this.
“My recommendation is that he have an opportunity to re-enter the community,” she read from her report.
During her cross-examination, First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza questioned whether his plan of depending on his father for support if he is released was a good one.
Rock responded that his father is different now.
When Nedza mentioned Weatherill easily following other’s bad behavior, Rock said he is older and less influenced by his peers at this point. He is not involved in gangs in prison and has a better relationship with his family, she said.
Rock was the only witness to testify in this hearing. The next step is a sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 22.