Keith Weaver gets 35-70 years for slaying of his parents, sister

Relates to:
Date: 1993-06-23

Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA)
Intelligencer Journal staff report

Sixteen-year-old Keith Chul Weaver, who told the Lancaster County Court he did not know what happened to him when he killed his father, mother and sister and attempted to rape a fourth person in February 1991, was sentenced Tuesday morning to a maximum of 35 to 70 years in prison.

In sentencing Weaver to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill on three counts of third degree murder and one of attempted rape, President Judge D. Richard Eckman said it was important to fashion a sentence to protect the community and society now and in the future.

He said, "The rehabilitation of the defendant is and must be secondary."

Eckman noted that that large unanswered question remains, "Will it happen again?" He said he believed "the defendant is definitely a risk ..."

The Korean-born teen-ager, who was 14 at the time of the offenses, said in a statement prior to sentencing he didn't know what happened _ "I wish I knew why." He added that he didn't know if it would happen again ..."Does anyone know the future?"

Weaver told the court, "I realize what I have done I cannot take back. Whatever my sentence will be will never justify what happened. It is hard to understand what happened ... what I've done I have to accept ..."

He added that he had learned a lot of things in his life ... "I realized about love, family and friends."

Weaver said he knows that he has got to be the best he can. "I realize if have to be in jail for the rest of my life, nobody can take away from me the chance to be the best I can be."

Many family and friends who had gathered in courtroom for the sentencing, were dismayed by the lengthy sentence. They had hoped that he could be rehabilitated and then released from prison to lead a productive life.

"It's a long time," said Hershey Leaman, head of a small group of church members that monitored the legal proceedings and reported back to the Weaver family.

He said the sentencing clearly was not what the family and church members wanted. "We hoped it would be a place with more options for help."

Weaver's brother, Steven, fought back tears after the sentencing but declined to comment. His sister, Deborah, was not at the sentencing.

Barbara Ann Horst, an aunt of the Weaver children, said, "I think we all love Keith and we hate to see him in prison for so long."

The youth himself wiped his eyes as he was taken from the courtroom by deputy sheriffs.

Later, his attorney, J. Richard Gray said that Weaver "was very upset and distraught."

Assistant District Attorney Heidi Carter, however, said the Commonwealth was "very happy with the sentence."

She said it sends "a strong message to juveniles who commit homicide that age is not going to be the deciding factor when it comes to a just sentence."

Gray plans to appeal the sentence to a higher court.

In imposing sentence, Eckman recommended psychiatric and psychological counseling for Weaver, "whatever educational facilities are available ... and any other consideration be given because of his age of 16."

Weaver, who was adopted by the Weaver family when he was four and a half, fatally stabbed his parents, Dr. R. Clair and Anna May Weaver, and his 15-year-old sister, Kimberly. He then sexually assaulted a teen-aged girl who was visiting his home outside Landisville.

In March of 1992, he was convicted of three counts of third degree murder and one count each of attempted rape, indecent assault and simple assault.

During the trial, a psychologist testified that Weaver had suffered from abuse and neglect before his adoption. He said the teen-ager heard voices who urged him to kill his family.

Eckman sentenced Weaver to consecutive terms of 10 to 20 years on each murder and consecutive five to 10 years on the attempted rape. The indecent assault and simple assault merged with the attempted rape. Weaver is to pay costs but no fine.

He noted that the events of the night of Feb. 17, 1991 "were a tragedy of immense magnitude ... half of a family died, all contributing, respected members of the community." He said it was also a tragedy for the defendant who has been described as bright and as popular with his classmates.

Prior to sentencing, Dr. David A. Rogers, a licensed psychologist with Pennsylvania Psychological Services, Harrisburg, described Weaver as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, similar to Vietnam veterans.

He said it was his impression that Weaver, was in a "disassociated state" at the time of the killings as if he were watching the action.

Upon being questioned specifically on the chances of Weaver committing a similar act again, Rogers said there is some element of risk. Something could happen. The percentage is not that great, but it is always there.

Pressed, he admitted that he couldn't say it would not happen again, given the right circumstances.

Rogers has been seeing Weaver every other week since May 1991. Prior to that for six or eight weeks, he saw Weaver on a weekly basis.

Gray, speaking before sentencing an seeking mercy, noted, "never has the defense attempted to deny or minimize these acts ... Keith still does not understand what motivated him."

He said Weaver didn't do it for gain or for spite. "There is no easy answer ... forces controlled him rather than he controlling himself.

Gray asked what the Weavers would want done with their son. "They constantly believed in discipline, but tempered it with love and mercy. They never gave up on him."

Ms. Carter said that the real tragedy was that "he never knew about love, family and friends until he killed two parents and a sister."

She told the court this is "a vile and vicious act ... the day of reckoning for Keith Weaver and has come and we Still don't have a reason...Clair and Anna May and Kim Weaver would ask for justice today."

In addressing the court, Weaver turned near the conclusion of his words, faced the the friends and family in the courtroom and told them, "With me I deserve to go through this but my family and friends do not ... I really appreciate everything you've done for me. All I can say is thank you and I love you all."

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