A former Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, football player who killed his childhood friend and roommate now starts a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But was the killing related to the cold-case murder of a young teacher? Nobody can say for sure.
Pennsylvania Beaver County Judge Kim Tesla sentenced Sheldon Jeter, 23, last month after he was convicted for the first-degree murder of Tyric Pugh, 30. A jury had found Jeter guilty after a May trial.
On May 14, 2018, the police responded to a call about a man lying on the road at Kiehl Street in Aliquippa. The victim was shot five times in the head. He died at the scene and was later identified as Pugh.
According to prosecutors, Jeter gunned down his friend after both men had gone out for some ice cream. The duo lived together at the residence that belonged to Jeter’s grandfather. During the investigation, authorities found a .380 semi-automatic pistol under Jeter’s mattress, in addition to gunshot residue found in his car.
Forensic experts successfully matched shell casings at the scene of the crime with the murder weapon found at the resident. In addition, video footage showed Jeter’s car nearby the scene.
Jeter’s attorney, Michael Santicola requested the court to grant extraordinary relief due to a juror's bias, after the panel member failed to disclose previous knowledge about the defendant.
In 2018, Rachael DelTondo, a teacher, was found shot to death in her parents' driveway on Mother’s Day.DelTondo had been suspended from a state charter school couple of months because of a leaked police report incriminating her in an intimate relationship with Jeter, a teenager at the time.
Authorities questioned Jeter as a suspect, but he denied any involvement in her death.
The news of the 33-year-old’s death and Jeter being questioned as a suspect spread across the region.
The defense motion stemmed from a courtroom spectator who had recognized the juror as DelTondo’s neighbor. Jeter’s defense team believed the finding raised the issue of conflict, especially when DelTondo’s murder had been in the media spotlight for weeks. Hence, it should qualify for a mistrial.
“The defense didn't want a juror like this on this case, the commonwealth didn't want a juror like this on this case...but, unfortunately, it happened.And it is extraordinary that this person made it on the jury,” Santicola said, according to Times Online.
Tesla disagreed, stating the evidence Santicola submitted mainly was hearsay, and it did not meet the statutory requirement threshold.
The defense team also raised the issue of evidence contamination. Santicola queried why the police had driven the car from the scene since the state had maintained gunshot residues were found in the vehicle. However, prosecutors argued the officers wore gloves and placed a blanket over the car seat.
“There were implications by the defense that there were shortcomings on the part of the investigation. I think the jury answered that question quite sufficiently,” said Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.
Authorities still do not have a motive for Pugh’s killing. They also haven’t filed charges in the DelTondo case.
While Jeter is now heading to prison for one murder, DelTondo’s case is heading for the cold-case archives.