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'Absolutely insane': Father of Carlisle murder victim blasts plea deal
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'Absolutely insane': Father of Carlisle murder victim blasts plea deal

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Craig Ryan Hines Jr.

Craig Ryan Hines Jr., of Carlisle, is led out of Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Birbeck’s office.

The father of a man murdered in broad daylight last summer in Carlisle is blasting a possible plea deal for the accused killer as “absolutely insane.”

Michael Burch, 23, of Carlisle, was killed about 3:45 p.m. June 21, 2018, in a drive-by shooting while he was walking along the first block of North Penn Street in Carlisle. Craig Ryan Hines Jr., 19, of Carlisle, was arrested for the shooting in August.

In February, prosecutors filed a notice of aggravating circumstances that would permit them to seek the death penalty.

However, Michael Burch's father, William Burch, of Philadelphia, said he participated in a prearranged phone call Friday with a prosecutor from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, and the prosecutor asked him for his thoughts on a plea deal that would involve dropping the first-degree murder charge for a guilty plea on a third-degree murder charge.

The maximum sentence for third-degree murder is 20-40 years, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sodus.

That isn’t long enough, according to Burch, both in terms of justice and in ensuring a dangerous criminal does not get back on the streets.

"I just don’t understand why such a bad, bad person at such a young age has a possibility of walking free,” he said.

Burch isn’t seeking the death penalty, but would like to see a first-degree murder conviction and life in prison without parole, he said.

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District attorney's response

Sodus said he would not discuss potential plea negotiations in the press, and no formal plea offer has been made to the defendant. However, Sodus confirmed that he spoke with William Burch on Friday as part of his “due diligence” in meeting with victims.

Burch left the phone call before Sodus could explain details of the plea ideas he was planning to ask Burch to consider, he said.

"It was a very incomplete discussion,” he said.

Burch said he left the phone conversation after stating that he would not approve of the deal. His fiancée remained on the phone for Sodus to further discuss the possibility of a plea, he said, and Sodus confirmed.

'Just walking down the street'

In Burch’s view, the crime was especially heinous because Hines tracked his son down in broad daylight while his son was “just walking down the street.”

"He literally searched him out to shoot and kill him," Burch said.

Burch said Sodus raised the possibility that Hines would take the case to trial and be found innocent — an argument Burch characterized as “trying to scare me into agreeing with him.” A prosecutor who does his job right ought to be able to obtain a conviction in this case, he said.

"I can’t see how the district attorney would think this is a reasonable offer," he said.

Hines faces charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, prohibited possession of a firearm, person not to use or possess a firearm, firearms not to be carried without a license, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person, according to court records. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 9.

Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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