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2-year sentence upsets Uniontown victim's mom

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The mother of a woman who was hit in the head with a handgun during a convenience store robbery is not satisfied with the two-year sentence handed to an employee who admitted to setting up the crime.

“I'm not happy at all,” said Debbie Whetsel of Uniontown at the sentencing hearing on Wednesday for Shawn Richard Knight. “None of this would have happened had Shawn not set it in motion. It's just disgusting.”

On June 2 Knight pleaded guilty to robbery, theft and conspiracy to commit robbery for the May 28, 2012, holdup at the South Union Sheetz.

President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. sentenced him to one to two years in state prison, to be served after a six-month sentence he is serving for contempt.

Knight, 20, testified he was working at the store that night when he arranged for Matthew James Etling, 22, of Uniontown to enter through a back door to rob manager Brandy Kephart, 29.

Etling used the handgun to strike Kephart in the head and right hand and forearm, according to court records. Kephart suffered a head wound, concussion-like symptoms, a forearm cut and a broken hand.

Kephart testified she needed eight staples to close a cut on her head. She suffers from “night terrors,” migraines and anxiety attacks, she testified.

For a while after the attack, she was fearful in public places, she testified.

“People walking towards me or behind me scared me,” Kephart said. “They have no reason to harm me, but neither did Matt and Shawn.”

In court, Knight had described Kephart as a friend and claimed he didn't know Etling had a gun.

“Why would you set up your friend, of whom you had nothing against?” Kephart testified. “He also stated he didn't know about the gun and got no money out of it. I find both of those hard to believe.”

Knight is serving a six-month sentence for contempt because he failed to appear for his trial in February. He told Wagner he was in Texas on “vacation” at the time because he knew he would be sent to prison. His vehicle broke down, he said, and he was picked up on a bench warrant before he could find other transportation.

Knight apologized and said a gun was not supposed to be used during the robbery.

“When you make a pact with the devil, sometimes you aren't happy with the results,” the judge told Knight.

Etling left the store with $2,300, police said.

In 2012, he pleaded guilty to the robbery and was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. His plea bargain called for him to testify against Knight.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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