Ditz Could Face Up to 40 Years in State Prison After Murder Conviction
The verdict was handed down by a jury of seven women and five men at the Clarion County Courthouse on Friday, December 7, 2018, after nearly three hours and 45 minutes of deliberations – they were charged at approximately 11:30 a.m. and returned to render their verdict at approximately 3:15 p.m.
The jury found Ditz not guilty on first-degree murder, and because they found him guilty on the third-degree murder charges, they didn’t return verdicts on voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Ditz shot Seaburn, of Curwensville, Pa., a 22-year old Clarion University student at the time of her death, in her car, which he was driving, in the parking lot of a trailer park near Lake Lucy, Washington Township, Clarion County, Pa.
The two, according to statements given to state police by Ditz, were having an argument over $130.00 Ditz lent a friend, DaShon Smerker, who he considered a cousin.
Ditz defense attorney, Adam Bishop, painted the shooting as accidental and pushed for an involuntary manslaughter charge, while Clarion County District Attorney, Mark Aaron, was looking for a first-degree murder conviction.
In the end, neither attorney got exactly what they were looking for, but Aaron was good with the jury’s decision.
“I think the verdict did justice to the case,” Aaron said. “It is hard to be, quote, pleased in a case like this. A young lady lost her life. A young man’s life is ruined by what he did. But, I think the jury’s verdict brings justice to the case, closure to Katrina’s family.”
Ditz and Seaburn were parked outside the trailer of his cousin, Brandon Strotman, when the shooting took place with a 45-caliber Glock handgun that Ditz had borrowed from another cousin, Dustin Hoffman, a couple of months prior to the shooting.
According to Aaron, the case went pretty much how he expected it to go.
“I worked with some good people,” Aaron said. “Trooper (Shawn) Nicewonger put a lot of work into it. We had a lot of help from Renee Wingard, our office manager. As you saw, she ran all the audio and visual and did a great job with that. I appreciate her work.”
Aaron believed the June 20, 2017, interview Ditz had with state police at the Ridgway barracks where he changed his story from the gun falling off the dashboard with him catching it and it firing basically on its own to him picking the gun up from where he had placed it next to the car’s console, waving it around and it shooting Seaburn, was critical to the prosecution’s case.
Although he was pursuing a first-degree murder charge, Aaron wasn’t surprised by the third-degree conviction.
When he was asked if he was surprised by the verdict, Aaron responded, “No.”
Aaron also answered “Yes” when asked if the third-degree verdict was something he was prepared for.
A lot of credit was given to the state police for their efforts in leading to the conviction by Aaron.
“The Marienville barracks put a lot of work into it,” Aaron said. “It’s not the largest barracks with the largest allotment of manpower, but they did a good job on it.”
Aaron was hesitant to speak on behalf of Seaburn’s family when it came to how they felt about the verdict.
“I’m not going to speak for her parents,” Aaron said.
Ditz was also found guilty of two counts of Aggravated Assault, two counts of Simple Assault, and a count of Recklessly Endangering another person. One of the Aggravated Assault and one of the Simple Assault convictions came with “use of a deadly weapon.”
According to Aaron, the maximum Ditz could face is 20 to 40 years in state prison on the third-degree murder conviction.
“There are sentencing guidelines that apply,” Aaron said. “The judge would have broad discretion on a murder three conviction. The standard guidelines for the low-end of the range are anywhere from five and 20 years. The sentence is always up to the judge.”
Sentencing will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at the Clarion County Courthouse.
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