SUNBURY – Convicted killer Brentt M. Sherwood is off death row but will remain in jail for life.
Following a two-day hearing in Northumberland County Court this week, Senior Judge Harold Woelfel Jr. ordered that Sherwood’s death sentence on July 30, 2007 be overturned. Sherwood remains in jail without the possibility of parole based on the first degree murder conviction and Defense and Commonwealth agreement. Sherwood also agreed to withdraw all Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) claims related to the sanction phase of his trial.
“The court finds that the defendant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to file and plead post-sentence motions, and knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to seek a review in the courts of appeals in Pennsylvania, as well as in the federal courts of the newly imposed sentences resulting from the agreement between the Commonwealth and the defendant, including the issue of relief from the penalty phase contained in Respondent’s second amended PCRA petition and his additional seconded amended PCRA petition. ”
The court concludes that the APRC’s allegations relating to the guilt phase of the accused’s trial remain contested by the Commonwealth and the parties will proceed to a hearing of evidence related solely to the guilt phase claims.
Sherwood, 42, was convicted 14 years ago of beating his 4.5-year-old stepdaughter to death. Sherwood, a former Northumberland resident, was sentenced to death in 2007 after a Northumberland County jury found him guilty of first degree murder in December 2004, beating the death of his 4-year-old daughter-in-law and half, Marlee Reed. During the trial, Sherwood admitted to repeatedly punching and kicking the child in their Northumberland home, but claimed he was addicted to cocaine and did not want to kill her .
Woelfel also imposed a sentence of 3.5 to seven years in a state prison for endangering the welfare of a child and the conviction for aggravated assault merges with the conviction for first murder. degree, according to court documents.
Sherwood originally listed 106 different reasons why he should be given a new trial, including ineffective attorney, improper or illegal proceedings by the late Judge William Harvey Wiest, procedural shortcomings and errors or omission of the record, according to a 342 page post-conviction relief. Application under the law which was originally filed in 2012.
Sherwood, currently incarcerated at Phoenix State Correctional Facility in Skippack Township, Montgomery County, was one of 112 inmates – all male – currently on death row in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Pennsylvania is one of 27 states still on death row; three other states have abolished the death penalty in the past two years, according to the Associated Press.
In 2015, Governor Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on executions, citing concerns about innocence, racial prejudice and the effects of the death penalty on the families of victims. The moratorium expires when Wolf leaves office in 2023, according to the AP. The last execution in Pennsylvania dates back to 1999.
Sherwood was represented by defense counsel Edward J. Rymsza. The Commonwealth was represented by attorney William Ross Stoycos, a senior deputy in the state attorney general’s office.
The defense has 60 days to file the first briefs regarding the PCRA’s remaining claims, according to court documents.