01/09/93
Jailed man set free after false confession 
Proof of innocence approved at hearing
By Pete Shellem

   A Dauphin County judge yesterday freed a man who pleaded guilty to murder two years ago  after hearing evidence that Joseph D. Miller of Steelton, suspected of being a serial killer, committed the slaying.

   President Judge Warren G. Morgan, after hearing prosecutors and defense attorneys making supporting arguments, ordered William M. Kelly Jr. released from county prison.

   Kelly 's attorney, David Foster, said Kelly will live with his grandmother in Harrisburg and continue undergoing psychiatric treatment.

   Kelly had little comment upon being released, but did say he was going to try to get on with his life. "I couldn't believe it," he said.

   His grandmother, Murza K. Snavely, called his release the "best Christmas present I ever had."

   While not faulting police, Foster said he would investigate the possibility of seeking retribution for his client.

   In February 1990, Kelly confessed to killing Jeanette D. Thomas, 25, of Hall Manor, whose bludgeoned body was found in the old Swatara Twp. landfill. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree murder .

   County District Attorney Richard A. Lewis reopened the investigation after Miller , 28, allegedly led investigators to the same landfill, where they discovered the bodies of two other city women, Selina M. Franklin 18, and Stephanie McDuffey, 23.

   Swatara Twp. Detective Ronald L. Fernsler, who investigated all three killing sites, said he immediately noticed the similarities
between the deaths of the three women. All the bodies were found within yards of each other in the landfill and were covered with
boards and other debris in a similar fashion.

   All were beaten about the head, he said. 

  Semen found in Thomas' body was matched to Miller , whom authorities said eventually confessed to her killing.

   County Chief Detective Thomas P. Brennan Jr. said Miller confessed in a September interview to the Thomas slaying, but when asked to go into detail, asked for his attorney.

   Witnesses who identified Kelly as the last person seen with Thomas now say they were mistaken. One has identified Miller as that person.

   Lewis said Miller and Kelly resembled each other at the time and have a similar speech impediment.

   Lewis said the investigation into bringing charges against Miller  in Thomas' slaying is continuing.

   Kelly has an IQ of 69 and a history of mental illness, alcoholism and manic depression. A psychiatrist who interviewed Kelly at length
said the combination of alcohol blackouts and his mental condition made him susceptible to believing he had committed the crime when questioned by police.

   The psychiatrist said Kelly was trying to please his interviewers by saying what they wanted to hear.

   Morgan commended Lewis and the investigators for pursuing the bizarre case.

   "The conduct of the district attorney and these officers reflects the highest standards of prosecutorial ethics," Morgan said.

   Miller is facing trial in deaths of Franklin and McDuffey, which date back to 1987, as well as for two assaults in which women were
raped and told they were going to be killed.

   He also is a suspect in an unsolved Perry County slaying and is being investigated in a string of slayings in North Carolina, where
his relatives reside.

   An out-of-county jury will be selected to hear his case because of pretrial publicity. The trial is expected to start in the next several months after defense objections to statements given police are resolved.


 
 
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