A York City man is hoping authorities reopen a 21-year-old York City case, the shooter in which was recently charged with plotting to hire a police informant to kill an acquaintance of his wife.
Gregory Allen Hess, charged in the murder-for-hire plot on Friday, was also the subject of a 1993 coroner's inquest into the death of a different man. The panel in that inquest found Hess shouldn't be charged with homicide because he acted in self-defense.
The panel did recommend a charge of tampering with evidence because Hess, now of North Codorus Township, admitted to cutting himself to bolster his self-defense argument.
The old case: Hess shot and killed his childhood friend, Michael Osman, in York City on June 8, 1993. The two were in a dispute about Osman's estranged girlfriend, Laurie Keesey.
Both Gregory Hess, now 46, and Osman were 25 at the time of Osman's shooting death.
According to testimony reported by The York Dispatch at the time of the inquest, Hess and Keesey said Osman was upset because he believed they were having an affair.
During the inquest, Hess said he thought the front door of his home at 328 W. Jackson St. was locked, but Osman entered the darkened house.
Though Keesey had called to warn Hess that Osman was on his way to Hess' home, Hess said he was asleep on his couch at the time Osman arrived. Hess had a 9mm Colt handgun he had purchased 13 days earlier lying on the floor beside him, according to the testimony reported in The York Dispatch in 1993.
Hess testified he opened a door but left the storm door locked when Osman banged on the front door.
Hess turned to flip on the lights, and Osman came through the storm door; Osman grabbed a knife and approached, and Hess testified "I'd better shoot him because if I didn't he was going to kill me."
Hess fired one shot; the bullet entered Osman's right shoulder and went through his heart and both lungs, killing him.
Tampering charge: The coroner's inquest, called by former York County District Attorney Stanley Rebert, found Hess should not be charged with homicide.
However, Hess was sentenced to three to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with the evidence in the Osman case; Hess admitted he cut himself on the arm with a steak knife and moved the knife Osman had held closer to the deceased Osman's body in the moments after the shooting.
Hess told the panel, according to a December 1993 article in The York Dispatch, he was scared because there was no physical evidence that supported his assertion that the shooting was in self-defense.
Plea to re-open: Because of Friday's arrest, York City resident Dan Benkert is launching an effort called "Justice for Michael 'Mikey' Osman."
Osman's best friend and a former friend of Hess, Benkert said he has long believed the case should be reopened because the evidence didn't support self-defense.
Current York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said Monday it's "premature" for him to comment specifically about Hess' 1993 coroner's inquiry.
"This is an ongoing investigation, and we will certainly follow all leads wherever that may take us," Kearney said. "We have many things to look into at this point."
District attorney chief administrator Kyle King said county records on the old case, in which Hess was never charged with homicide, have been destroyed.
The top investigator in Osman's case has retired, and Rebert and the former coroner have moved on.
"You're talking a case that's 20-plus years old, and there's absolutely nothing left," King said. "There's a lot of moving parts."
— Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.