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Man acquitted of officer's murder set to be released from prison Wednesday

Paul Peirce
| Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 2:09 p.m.

A New Florence man acquitted of fatally shooting a St. Clair Township police officer was expected to be released from jail Wednesday.

Ray A. Shetler Jr., 33, was sentenced to 11 12 to 23 months in jail followed by five years of probation on charges of theft and receiving stolen property, both misdemeanors.

As he was led away in handcuffs after a sentencing hearing, Shetler told his family that he had to go back to the Westmoreland County Prison to be processed before his release. He had been held there since Nov. 28, 2015, when Officer Lloyd Reed was shot and killed as he responded in uniform to a domestic violence call from Shetler's girlfriend at their New Florence home.

“I love you guys,” Shetler said to his family.

Shetler was acquitted in February of first- and third-degree murder in connection with the death of Reed, 54, of Somerset County. Jurors deliberated for 20 hours over two days after listening to six days of testimony.

Before delivering her sentence, Judge Meagan Bilik-Defazio said she was not permitted under law to consider the seriousness of the two murder counts that jurors acquitted Shetler of committing.

The theft and receiving stolen property charges stem from crimes related to a truck he stole at the Conemaugh Generating Plant in the hours after the shooting. Police arrested Shetler after a six-hour manhunt. He faced up to seven years on the theft charge.

District attorney John Peck had asked Bilik-Defazio to impose a sentence in the 20- to 40-month range, plus five years' probation, based on prior convictions in the past 13 years for simple assault and reckless endangerment.

However, Shetler's attorney, Marc Daffner of Pittsburgh, countered that Bilik-Defazio should consider that his client had already served “almost 900 days” on a theft charge. He pointed out the standard sentencing guideline for Shetler would be a 6- to 14-month sentence, which he had exceeded.

“I've seen people convicted of similar offenses given probation in these cases. Ray should receive no more or less than what everyone is entitled to,” Daffner said.

Shetler also addressed Bilik-Defazio prior to sentencing.

“Judge, I just wanted you to know that a lot of people told me before I came here I wouldn't have a fair trial. I wanted to tell you that everything was run fair, I feel, and I wanted to thank you for your time,” Shetler said.

Shetler's stepfather, Mark Porter, testified that his stepson will live with him and Shetler's mother, Lorie, in the Saltsburg area. The family has received death threats, Daffner said.

A construction job is waiting for Shetler when he is released, according to Porter.

“I'll take him back and forth to work until he can get a car. I've known him for 14 years, and I've known him as a very nice fellow,” Porter testified.

In imposing the sentence, Bilik-Defazio told Shetler he was not permitted to consume alcohol or drugs during the probation period or have any contact with the Reed family.

He originally was ineligible for bail but, after his acquittal, Bilik-DeFazio set his bail at $100,000.

The jury also acquitted Shetler of simple assault and harassment charges that stemmed from allegations he hit his girlfriend, Kristen Luther, with the brim of a baseball cap — the incident that prompted her to call police to the home they shared.

Shetler faced a potential death sentence if he was convicted of first-degree murder. He claimed he acted in self-defense and Reed was the first to open fire. Shetler was shot in the shoulder.

Staff writer Renatta Signorini contributed. Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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