New Freedom's Zachary Witman, who killed brother in '98, could be released Tuesday

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Zachary Witman could be paroled as soon as Tuesday for murdering his 13-year-old brother in 1998, when he was 15.

Witman, who just turned 36, spent the better part of two decades denying he killed Gregory Witman in the laundry room of their New Freedom home. Police later found bloody gloves and a knife buried in the yard of the Witman home.

Zachary Witman, in a prison photo taken Monday, May 20, 2019.

Witman used a knife to slash Greg's neck more than six dozen times, nearly decapitating his brother, according to trial testimony.

In January, state board of probation spokeswoman Laura Treaster said Witman would be released on or after Tuesday, May 21.

As of Monday, May 20, Witman remained incarcerated at SCI Smithfield in Huntingdon County, according to Department of Corrections records.

Maria Finn, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections, said she is not allowed to release inmates' parole dates prior to their release.

"That's for security reasons," she said on Monday.

Zachary Witman leaves the York County Courthouse Monday, May 19, 2003.

The background: The state parole board granted Witman parole on Jan. 18, nearly a year after he confessed in court to killing his brother.

The board did so based on Witman's participation in, and completion of, an institutional program and because of his positive institutional behavior, according to a copy of the board's decision.

Witman pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in York County Court on Feb. 8, 2018. He was immediately sentenced to a minimum of 15 years and 230 days in prison to a maximum of 40 years in prison.

The plea came during what was scheduled to be a post-conviction relief hearing on his first-degree murder conviction before Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner. After being convicted at trial as an adult, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Witman's family and friends long maintained his innocence. In 2013, his parents enlisted the help of a former New York City homicide detective to try to prove it and also worked with a documentary crew about the case.

What happened: During Witman's January 2018 guilty-plea hearing, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker read aloud a transcript of Witman's confession to authorities. According to that account:

Witman had been sick on the day of the slaying — Oct. 2, 1998 — and stayed home from school. During the day his brother's girlfriend had called, and he hung up on her.

Surrounded by deputies, Ron Witman exits the  York County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon after a jury found his son, Zachary, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Zachary's younger brother, Gregory, in 1998.  Witman refused to comment to the media following the trial Tuesday, May 20, 2003.

When Greg came home from school, he became angry at his brother for hanging up on the girl, which in turn angered the older brother.

Witman went to his room, where Greg confronted him. Looking to scare him, Witman grabbed a knife and gloves.

Greg went downstairs and accused Witman of not taking his relationship seriously.

Witman then went downstairs and, in "intense and extreme frustration," began stabbing his brother in the foyer of the home. Greg ran into the laundry room to escape, but Witman followed him. He continued stabbing Greg until the boy was dead.

After the stabbing, Witman called 911 and, realizing what had happened, went out to the yard and buried the gloves and knife under a tree.

Barker has said Witman was scared to admit what had happened at the time. He also said Witman would later find out he was suffering from depression. 

Prosecutors extended a plea offer to Witman's attorney in 2002, but Witman wasn't told about it until late 2017, according to Barker.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.