Attorneys on both sides of the courtroom agreed Hanover resident Scott Anthony Schaffer would not have murdered his father and cut off his head, had he not been suffering from major mental illness.
But York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said Schaffer's mental illness doesn't mean he didn't know what he was doing or that he isn't legally responsible for the Aug. 1 slaying.
"He knew exactly what he was doing," Kearney said. "The facts would have supported a murder-one verdict. ... He knew the difference between right and wrong."
Guilty, but ill: On Friday afternoon Schaffer, 32, formerly of the first block of Springbrook Court, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. In exchange, the first-degree murder charge against him was dropped.
As part of his negotiated plea agreement, Schaffer was sentenced to 22 to 44 years in state prison for killing his father, 62-year-old Steven Schaffer, who lived in the 100 block of Stock Street in Hanover.
"It is the opinion of the commonwealth ... the defendant should serve his maximum sentence," Kearney told the judge during Friday's hearing.
Kearney said that after Scott Schaffer is released, authorities will need to evaluate the man to determine if he should be committed to a mental hospital.
Needs meds: Kearney also told presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn that after Scott Schaffer is paroled, he needs to continue taking his medication.
"That needs to be controlled strictly in this case," the prosecutor said.
Scott Shaffer admitted to stabbing his father to death, then decapitating him, inside the victim's home. His mother — the victim's wife — was out of town at the time, according to Kearney.
The killer called 911 and confessed, then waited at the scene for officers to arrest him, Hanover Police said. At that point, he told them he killed his father "in hopes he would go to prison," records state.
Apologized: "I'm very sorry for what I did to my family," Shaffer told the judge on Friday.
The victim's family and police approved of the plea agreement, according to Kearney.
A psychiatrist retained by the prosecution determined Scott Schaffer suffers from a delusional disorder, while the psychiatrist retained by the defense diagnosed Schaffer with schizophrenia, according to defense attorney Michael Wiseman, who told the judge he hopes his client is kept in a "protective-custody situation" in prison.
Competent: Both doctors agreed he was competent to stand trial, Wiseman confirmed.
No evidence was discovered to indicate Scott Schaffer had a grudge against the victim, according to Kearney.
"There did not seem to be any animosity between he and his father," the prosecutor said. "By all accounts it was a warm relationship."
No family members spoke in open court Friday, although a few attended the proceeding and some submitted written victim-impact statements. At Kearney's request, Judge Renn did not make those letters part of the court record.
Renn also ordered Scott Schaffer's mental-health evaluations to be sealed from the public.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.