CLEARFIELD – A man involved in the kidnapping and murder of a St. Marys woman abducted from the DuBois Mall in 1989 now has a chance for parole.
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 killed.
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.
Their plan was to go to California and become rock stars, according to previous testimony.
Weatherill, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, was one of the cases that came back to the county for re-sentencing following a Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruling in 2017 that says juveniles 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.
On Tuesday, Weatherill was before specially-presiding Senior Judge Timothy P. Creany of Cambria County for re-sentencing.
Weatherill’s attorney, Jason Dunkle, admitted that his client has had a drug problem his entire life and can get better treatment outside the prison system that gave up on him because he was a “lifer.”
“He needs to have a shot at life,” he said.
Dunkle went on to explain that he has worked at bettering himself and wants to help kids by sharing his story and experience to possibly keep others off a bad path.
Weatherill, reading from a written statement, apologized to the Brown family saying he has shame and regret for his actions. He also mentioned that he wants to mentor young people who can learn from his mistakes.
He said he didn’t kill her, which is the first time he has said that because he “didn’t want to dismiss my involvement”. Again, he said he was sorry and said he feels he has paid for his actions.
First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza responded with details about the victim who was a wife and mother who never got to meet her grandchildren.
Her injuries were “intensive” with stab wounds so deep her ribs were broken. She also was stabbed in the neck, her skull was exposed and she had defensive wounds which means she fought back, she said.
After the kidnapping, he had a chance to abandon their plan as he followed the car with the victim and Crispell in it. He watched as the murder occurred, helped move her body and then left the area.
She mentioned that his disciplinary record in prison was “dismal” and concluded Weatherill couldn’t be rehabilitated.
He is an addict in prison and will be an addict if released, she said.
The victim’s husband, Lawrence Brown Jr. addressed the court saying an officer in this case told him he didn’t understand why they didn’t let her go after they “had what they needed” with her car and money.
This officer said he came to the conclusion it was a “thrill kill.”
He also mentioned the extreme violence of the crime with her slashed throat and broken ribs. Her body was “thrown” and landed in a creek, he related.
Creany told Brown that there is nothing that can make this right or explain how this could happen. He agreed that once the two had her money and car, it should have ended there.
“Why it went off the rails, we can’t answer.”
He went on to say it was up to him to determine if Weatherill was amendable to rehabilitation and he had to consider several things.
One of these issues is Weatherill’s childhood where he was a follower of his older brothers and then of Crispell. Others are the impact on the family from this “senseless killing,” the impact on the community and if Weatherill is a future threat.
He pointed out that while Weatherill had no possibility of release he didn’t take classes or do other things to better himself, but once he had hope of parole, he became a certified peer counselor.
Creany concluded after reviewing all the information and listening to an expert in a previous hearing, that Weatherill was amendable to rehabilitation.
He then sentenced Weatherill to a total of 35 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery.
Weatherill has already served approximately 33 years.
Creany apologized to Brown saying he knows this is not satisfying to him, but “based on the case law and evidence presented, it is what I have to do.”
This was Weatherill’s second chance for a better sentence.
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 Creany, 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.