The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 25, 2014

GJR killer could get out of prison – in 30 years

PINE TOWNSHIP — A local judge on Tuesday gave Anthony Machicote a small ray of hope that he could someday be let out of prison.

Machicote has been serving a prison term of life without parole for his role in the death of Wayne Urey Jr., a night supervisor at George Junior Republic, the residential treatment center for boys in Pine Township.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson resentenced Machicote, 27, to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but recommended that he not have his first parole hearing until after he has turned 58.

Dobson issued a new sentence because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices said it is unconstitutional for a state to enact a law mandating life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.

Such a sentence can be handed down, but only after a judge has considered the defendant’s age, the circumstances of the case and other mitigating factors, Dobson said.

Machicote and his co-defendant, Jeremy Melvin, were each 17 at the time of Urey’s death, Nov. 10, 2003. Each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

There was a lot of discussion among the judge, attorneys, Machicote and witnesses as to Machicote’s level of maturity now and at the time Urey was beaten and gagged, and suffocated.

Dobson questioned Machicote about the crime, his prison jobs, his family, his education, his participation in juvenile-treatment programs and his religious beliefs.

Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems argued Machicote was “all but an adult” at the time of Urey’s murder.

Machicote had family support, and his siblings, who were raised in the same family situation, succeeded in life, Kochems said.

Machicote showed signs of maturity while in a previous juvenile- treatment center, becoming a leader and a counselor, and earning release at his minimum date, Kochems said.

Once he was released, Machicote got a job.

“He was doing what you would expect a normal 17-year-old to do, except he was a criminal,” Kochems said.

Machicote had juvenile adjudications for arson and car theft, and ran away from home when his mother suspected him of smoking marijuana.

The escape from George Junior was planned about two days ahead of time, and Machicote and Melvin returned to Urey after he was tied up, but did not try to help him when he was showing signs of distress, Kochems said.

“This should be a case of life in prison without parole,” he said.

Speaking for the Urey family, Michael T. Muha, Urey’s cousin, said Urey’s parents have died of illnesses that family members believed are tied to Urey’s death.

Muha, a Hickory High School graduate, said the death of his cousin “gave me the itch” to become a lawyer, and the family has become closer.

“I would do everything I could to have him (Urey) back for one day,” Muha said. “It is the family’s position that he (Machicote) should remain in prison for the rest of his life.”

Defense attorney Ryan Mergl argued Machicote’s juvenile convictions show his immaturity, and he said Machicote planned the escape to return to his family in Homewood.

“They did not act out to murder a supervisor,” he said.

“Given the right job and the right chances, he could be a productive member of society,” Mergl said.

Machicote’s mother, Helen Machicote Starcher, argued her son was not ready to function independently when he was 17.

“I lost him to his friends, peer pressure, wanting to fit in,” she said.

While in prison, he has “grown up,” she said, and he wishes he had listened to her teaching when he was a teen.

“I don’t want to see him grow old and die inside,” she said.

Machicote argued Kochems’ examples of apparent maturity do not include the proper context.

Speaking of his time in the juvenile detention facility at which he was a counselor and leader, Machicote said, “Just like any other teenager, I did things,” he said. “I just didn’t get caught. I made bad choices.”

Machicote said he has learned to think before he reacts.

“I wasn’t really mature,” he said. “The person I was then is not who I am now.”

Dobson said it was difficult determining a sentence for Machicote. State law does not provide any sentencing guidelines, and the U.S. Supreme Court spoke in “generalities.” The Miller decision “doesn’t set forth what must be considered,” he said.

Dobson agreed with Machicote that the death was unintentional and concluded that Melvin probably was more responsible for Urey’s death than Machicote was.

But, he added, t Urey suffered “horrendous” injuries. While he believes Machicote can change and be productive, the brutality of the crime requires a long prison term, Dobson said.

Machicote has been in custody since Nov. 10, 2003, all of that time credited toward the completion of his sentence.

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