A killer condemned to death won new sentencing. Victim's family says it's time to get on with it

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Danielle Taylor

Family members of murder victim Danielle Taylor are frustrated and angry that her killer has not yet been resentenced in York County Court.

"Nothing's happening," Taylor's brother, Bob Sterner, told The York Dispatch on Wednesday, Feb. 5. "There's no justice yet. ... Something needs to happen right now."

Sterner said he intends to "keep talking louder and louder" until 43-year-old Paul Jackson Henry III has once again been sentenced and returned to state prison where, barring a successful appeal, he will spend the rest of his life.

Taylor was 26 years old in 2016 when she was fatally shot in the throat by Henry after she answered a knock at the door of the home where she was staying, jurors determined.

Convicted Fawn Township home-invasion double murderer Henry remains in York County Prison as presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner considers whether to sentence Henry to death or to life in prison without parole.

"His mommy is 15 minutes away (from the prison), but I can't visit my sister," Sterner said. "This needs to be wrapped up."

Death sentence tossed: In April 2019, Bortner ruled that Henry's death sentence — originally handed down in 2018 by the jury that found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and robbery —  had to be thrown out because of a procedural issue.

Because of that, Henry needs to be resentenced. Both the prosecution and defense agreed to allow Bortner to make that decision himself, rather than empanel a new jury.

Sterner said he wonders whether the judge is wiling to hand down the most serious punishment a killer can face in Pennsylvania.

"I don't know if he can say 'death,'" Sterner said.

In 2016, Henry and his wife, Veronique Henry, shot their way inside the home of heroin dealer Foday Cheeks, killing him and Taylor, who was staying there. The Henrys then robbed four others inside — including two teens — of their cellphones so they couldn't call police, but let them live.

Paul Henry III

Veronique Henry killed herself in York County Prison two days after the murders of Cheeks and Taylor.

Bortner presided over a brief resentencing hearing the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 4, during which both the prosecution and the defense asked the judge to consider everything already in the trial record.

Reviewing trial record: Bortner indicated he would review the trial record before scheduling Henry's new sentencing hearing.

Since then, Bortner has spent periods of time away from work, dealing with medical issues.

"He's a convicted double murderer," Sterner said of Henry, and needs to be in a state prison.

Sterner and other family members attended a hearing for Henry on Wednesday in York County Court, scheduled because Henry had sent a letter to the court asking that he be allowed to fire defense attorneys Farley Holt and Suzanne Smith.

But in court, Henry said he's reconsidered and wants to keep his defense team. He did, however, complain about not being able to get color photos that are part of the trial record. Instead, the photos are black and white and have poor resolution, he said.

State police said Foday Cheeks, 31, and Danielle Taylor, 26, were fatally shot inside 706 Brown Road in Fawn Township on Sept. 13, 2016.
(Photo by John Joyce)

York County Prison last year implemented a policy that original mail, including legal documents, would no longer be given to inmates. The move was in response to several reported illnesses among staff at state prisons, leading state officials to believe some mail was soaked in drugs.

Presiding Senior Common Pleas Judge Joseph C. Madenspacher, who was filling in for Bortner on Wednesday, took no action after determining that Henry has seen the exhibits already, that he's already been convicted and that Henry already has all those color photos in a locker at the state prison in Camp Hill.

The background: A York County jury on May 22, 2018, found Henry guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of robbery for the Sept. 13, 2016, Fawn Township home invasion during which Henry fatally shot Taylor and Cheeks, 31.

Veronique Henry, 32, also was arrested and charged with the murders of Taylor and Cheeks, who was her heroin dealer and former lover.

Foday Cheeks was fatally shot inside his Fawn Township home during a robbery Sept. 13, 2016, police said.
(Photo courtesy of Facebook)

She hanged herself in York County Prison two days after the murders and a day after she and her husband were captured in Dauphin County after a police chase.

Henry blamed his dead wife for the crimes, but jurors decided he was guilty and that he should die for the offenses.

Henry's motive was rage, York County District Attorney Dave Sunday has said.

Trial testimony revealed Veronique Henry was a heroin addict who lived with and was sexually involved with Cheeks earlier in 2016, when she and her husband were temporarily separated.

Sunday has said that while the Henrys stormed into Cheeks' home to rob him of cash and drugs, Paul Henry's real motive was anger at his wife's ex-lover.

More:Jury: Paul Henry guilty of 2 counts of first-degree murder, robbery

More:Double murderer back in York County Court, trying to avoid death penalty

The Henrys let four eyewitnesses who were sitting in the living room — two women and two teenage boys — live, despite all four having seen their faces.

Jury slip issue: The fact that Henry didn't kill the four eyewitnesses was the sole mitigating factor that jurors listed on his verdict sheet as a mitigating circumstance to why he shouldn't be put to death.

Veronique Henry

However, they imposed the death penalty after agreeing that aggravating factors outweighed mitigating ones.

The reason the death sentence was thrown out is because there were two mitigating factors to which both the prosecution and defense stipulated. That means the jury was required to consider them.

However, jurors didn't list the two stipulated mitigating factors on the jury slip — and that means there's no way to know whether the jury considered them as required by state law.

The stipulated mitigating factors were that Henry had no prior criminal convictions and that he had no prison misconduct write-ups.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.