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Convicted killer won't be freed in 1973 double-murder of children

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A former Monessen man who has served more than 40 years of a life sentence will not get out of prison, a Westmoreland County judge ruled Thursday.

John Veltre Jr., now 58, has been in prison since 1973 when as a 16-year-old he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for killing two young children after raping their mother.

Earlier this year, Veltre asked Judge Debra Pezze to order that he be resentenced because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling barred mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

In her ruling, Pezze determined that subsequent appeals courts said the Supreme Court finding cannot be applied retroactively, meaning that Veltre's life sentence will stand.

Veltre was convicted of killing 2-year-old Sandra Dee Morgan and her 3-month-old sister, Tina.

According to court records, Veltre threw both children into a wall and stomped on the older child after he raped their mother and left her unconscious in her Monessen home.

Veltre initially pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and related offenses.

In 1978, a state appellate court ordered that Veltre be given a new trial, ruling he didn't knowingly and voluntarily agree to plead guilty.

Later that year, a Westmoreland County jury found Veltre guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and rape and sentenced him to the same term imposed after the guilty plea — two terms of life imprisonment and an additional five to 20 years for rape.

Similar appeal heard

In a separate case, Westmoreland County Judge Chris Feliciani earlier this week ordered attorneys for two men convicted as juveniles and serving life sentences for a 2001 slaying in Bell Township to submit written arguments on why their appeals should be put on hold.

In brief court hearings, the attorneys contended another appeal is winding through the court system and could challenge the latest rulings on life sentences for juveniles.

Bryan Chambers, 30, and James A. Provitt, 31, were convicted of first-degree murder and other offenses for the June 14, 2001 shooting and beating death of 48-year-old Larry Dunmire of Kiskiminetas Township, Armstrong County.

They were 17 at the time of their arrests and also contend their life sentences should be thrown out.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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