Raymond Peake spoke nothing of his bizarre plans to overthrow the U.S. government.
There was no mention of a mystery truck driver who he had previously told authorities was a friend he’d known for 20 years but had never spoken to on the telephone.
The friend, Peake had said, visited on Wednesdays and Saturdays and likely committed the crimes to which Peake was now pleading to and crimes he will now spend the rest of his life behind bars for.
Peake pleaded no contest Thursday in the shooting death of Enola attorney Todd Getgen at a rifle range on State Game Land 230 in North Middleton Township in 2010.
He also pleaded no contest to stealing Getgen’s AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle.
“Do you understand the charges you are pleading to today?” Judge M.L. Ebert asked Peake, who stood next to his attorney.
Wearing a green prison-issued jumpsuit, Peake, a former Vietnam Veteran and Camp Hill prison guard, shook his head up and down before meekly
responding, “Yes, your honor.”
Boxes of tissue were noticeable in front of the judge’s bench and tears filled the courtroom as members of the slain attorney’s family wept in the front row.
The weeping increased when Cumberland County First Assistant District Attorney Jamie Keating read victim impact statements from Getgen’s sister, who lives in San Diego, and Getgen’s brother, who lives in North Carolina.
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching moment came when Getgen’s widow, standing only a couple of feet from Peake, gave her own victim impact statement.
With tears filling her eye glasses, Stella Getgen spoke about the impact her husband’s death has had on the couple’s only son, 6-year-old Ethan.
“The tragedy for our son is that this loss is something he will experience over and over again,” she said. “This past weekend, I took him to New York and we saw the Lion King and when the father lion died, my son had tears rolling down his face ... I took him up in a hot air balloon and we were up above the clouds and could see the sun and Ethan said ‘this is heaven, daddy’s here.”
Afterwards, Ebert formally sentenced Peake to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the second degree murder charge in which Peake pleaded no contest to. For good measure, Ebert sentenced Peake to five to 10 years in prison for stealing Getgen’s rifle. The sentence is to run consecutive, which only ensures that Peake, 66, will never have an opportunity at freedom.
The state had originally sought the death penalty, but Peake’s defense team and prosecutors struck a deal that spared the victim’s family a potential lengthy and emotional trial.
“I don’t know what happened all those years ago when you took an oath to support and obey the constitution,” Ebert said, chastising Peake before imposing sentence. “When did it break down? I don’t know. It’s a sad state of affairs that you gave up an honorable career to become a criminal.”
Peake, who lived in Hampden Township, was arrested and charged a week-and-a-half after Getgen was killed.
Authorities said he shot Getgen, 42, as the attorney was practicing at the shooting range. Getgen was shot 8 or 9 times and prosecutors said the damage was so severe that a later autopsy showed scores of bullet fragments and that there were so many bullet wounds, the coroner couldn’t list them in sequence.
Prosecutors said Peake’s action was motivated by the theft of Getgen’s rifle.
Peake had told police he found Getgen dead and took the rifle, in part, because he was collecting weapons to help an unnamed group overthrow the federal government.
He also told authorities about the mystery friend whom he said visited him twice a week and who could have committed the crimes. Police did not buy that story and that man was never identified.
“This (the plea deal) was important,” Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said, following the sentencing. “While it’s not closure for the family, it lets them move on to the next step of grieving. (Getgen’s) wife now has a young son she has to raise by herself,” Freed said.
Prior to Peake entering the courtroom Thursday, the tension was palpable. Eight sheriff’s deputies stood in various places inside the courtroom while several more stood outside.
Members of the media were escorted to a jury box while Ebert was spotted in his chambers monitoring the goings-on.
After sentencing, an unidentified person shouted what Peake’s wife claimed was “rot in hell.” No one from the Getgen family spoke or shouted, however one person not related to the family told Peake he hopes Peake rots.
“I never hurt anybody in my life, why do I have to rot in hell?” his wife said, sobbing as she left the courtroom with Peake’s attorney, Greg Abeln.
Peake will be transferred to a still-to-be-determined prison on Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, Thomas Tuso, whom authorities charged as an accomplice in the case, is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and receiving stolen property. Tuso, who was also a corrections officer at Camp Hill, is alleged to have stored stolen rifles for Peake at his home.
Posted earlier on Cumberlink:
Raymond Peake pleaded no contest today to second-degree murder and theft charges and the 66-year-old Vietnam veteran will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The state had originally sought the death penalty, but Peake’s defense team and prosecutors struck a deal that would spare the victim’s family a potential lengthy and emotional trial.
“I don’t know what happened all those years ago when you took an oath to support and obey the constitution,” Judge M.L. Ebert said, chastising Peake before imposing a life sentence for the murder of Enola attorney Todd Getgen in 2010. “When did it break down, I don’t know. It’s a sad state of affairs that you gave up an honorable career to become a criminal,” said Ebert.