Zachary Witman granted parole in 1998 murder of his brother
Zachary Witman was granted parole on Friday, Jan. 18, nearly a year after he admitted to killing his 13-year-old brother in 1998.
Now 35, Witman is still in custody and will not be released until on or after May 21, said board of probation spokeswoman Laura Treaster.
According to a copy of the board's decision, Witman was granted parole because of his participation in and completion of an institutional program and his positive institutional behavior.
On Feb. 8, 2018, Witman entered a guilty plea for third-degree murder for the slaying of his brother and was sentenced to 15 years, 230 days to 40 years in prison.
After being in prison with a life sentence without a chance for parole since he was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2003, Witman’s plea made him eligible for release.
The plea was made during what was scheduled to be a post-conviction relief hearing Thursday afternoon in front of Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner.
Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said during the hearing that an initial guilty plea had been offered to Witman's attorney in 2002 but was never extended to Witman.
The original plea offer wasn't known to Witman until late 2017, when prosecutors met with him for ongoing negotiations.
"'I'm not saying he didn't tell my parents, I'm just saying this is the first time I'm hearing about this,'" Barker recalled Witman saying.
Witman's original sentence and conviction were vacated, and he was allowed to plead guilty to third-degree murder.
'Model prisoner': Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said during the 2018 trial that Witman was a "model prisoner" who never had a single write-up and had helped other inmates obtain their GEDs.
Witman was 15 when he was arrested and charged in the slaying that left his brother, Gregory, nearly decapitated. Gregory Witman was stabbed and slashed 65 times.
Police later found bloody gloves and a knife buried in the backyard of the Witmans' New Freedom home.
After the stabbing, Zachary Witman called 911 and went to bury the gloves and knife under a tree.
Witman's family and friends long maintained his innocence. In 2013, his parents, Ron and Sue Witman, were working with a former New York City homicide detective to try to prove it.
Ron Witman was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.
In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to hear an appeal filed on Witman's behalf, after the state Supreme Court denied Witman's bid for a new sentencing hearing.