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Sprankle handed 8 to 29 years for attempted homicide

September 18, 2012

Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit Judy Sprankle of Reynoldsville is shown Tuesday leaving the Jefferson County Courthouse following her sentencing for attempted criminal homicide. Shown are (from left): Sam Bartley, Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff; Sprankle; and Dean Smith, Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

BROOKVILLE — A Reynoldsville woman was sentenced to eight to 29 years in state prison after pleading guilty to two counts of attempted criminal homicide — one count each against her ex-husband and his girlfriend — along with other charges in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday.

According to Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police, the shooting occurred around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, when Judy Sprankle fired six shots from a .22 caliber revolver at Elmer

Sprankle and his girlfriend, Alicia A. Caltagarone, behind District Judge Doug Chambers' office on Union Street in Punxsutawney.

After confronting the two in Elmer Sprankle's vehicle, Judy Sprankle removed a .22 caliber pistol from her purse and fired approximately six shots, one of which struck Elmer Sprankle’s car, with another striking a private residence along Pleasant Alley, police said.

Chambers has said all three parties were at his office that morning for a summary trial, in which Sprankle faced charges of harassment and public drunkenness for threatening to kill Elmer and another male, stemming from a May 18, 2011, incident.

Responding state troopers saw Sprankle carrying a handgun and walking toward South Penn Street behind Chambers’ office, police said.

When they ordered her to stop and drop the weapon, she complied, laid down on the ground and was taken into custody.

The residence that one of the rounds struck was that of Donna Keslar, who found a hole in the east wall, and troopers later located a spent bullet in the residence.

Sprankle was scheduled for trial this week, before she and her attorney, Toni Cherry, agreed to a plea bargain with Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett. Sprankle has been incarcerated in the Jefferson County Jail since her arrest.

Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge John H. Foradora said that vigilante justice — taking the law into your own hands — is not a good thing and is what Sprankle tried to do.

The attempted homicide incident actually grew out of a divorce case that stretched on for several years, Foradora said, adding that Protections From Abuse (PFA) orders played a major role in the shooting incident.

Foradora said the Sprankles' divorce was better than many cases due to the major obstacle being removed, which is assets, adding that both of the couple's children are grown, so there were no custody actions involved with the case.

"When the action occurred, there was potential danger all around, as the shots were fired in a residential neighborhood by the district judge's office on Union Street in Punxsutawney," he said.

Foradora said Judy Sprankle could have contacted numerous organizations regarding alleged abuse, but she never did so.

"I believe sentencing is not about sending a message to the public; I look at each case individually," he told Sprankle. "I examined your case. I considered your age and the fact that you don't have a criminal record, and your DUI summary offenses don't apply in this case."

Foradora said Sprankle's work history at Brockway Glass over the last 40 years was impeccable.

"It is unusal for someone with your record to end up in criminal court, especially because you worked for the best employer in the area," Foradora said.

"Even while you were in jail awaiting trial, Brockway Glass asked if it was possible for you to be given work release," he said.

Foradora said he believed that Elmer and Judy can't live without each other, which is why their divorce proceedings took so long to come to a conclusion.

He said the sentencing guideline ranges are high for this case because Sprankle had used a weapon in the commission of a crime.

Foradora said the standard range for attempted homicide is 78 to 99 months, which is a year and a half more than the minimum.

"The fact that you were on the District Court steps and followed his vehicle on foot into the alley and told everyone that you 'wanted to kill him (Elmer)’ also caused the sentencing guidelines to increase," Foradora said, adding that he was going to sentence her to the longest sentence — a minimum of 78 months (6-1/2 years) to a maximum of 20 years for two counts of attempted criminal homicide in order to assure Elmer's safety.

Foradora said for reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, Sprankle will receive no less than six months to a maximum of two years consecutive to the attempted homicide charges.

He said for discharging a firearm, she'll receive no less than 12 months to a maximum of seven years consecutive to the other sentences.

Sprankle's total aggregate sentence is no less than eight years to a maximum of 29 years with credit for time served and $27,000 in fines.

"The reason I kept the fines so high was because of your pension that you'll receive from Brockway Glass," Foradora said.

"If you are of good behavior, you'll be eligible for parole by your 70th birthday," he told Sprankle.

Sprankle said prior to sentencing that she was sorry for her actions that day, during which she was intoxicated.

Since she's been in jail, she said, Alcoholics Anonymous has helped her understand that there are alternatives to handling abuse.

"I've been on medication, and I want to start over, and I felt guilty for not knowing about the abuse my children endured at the hand of my ex-husband," she said.

"When I saw Elmer's car back up, I just snapped," Sprankle said. "Thank God no one was killed."

Sprankle apologized to Elmer and Caltagerone for her actions that day.
"I feel sorry for him, and I do ask for his forgiveness," she said.

Judy and Elmer's daughter, Kim Carulli, took the stand prior to sentencing and spoke about her childhood and how she lived in fear of her father.

She also said she witnessed her father abuse her mother sexually and physically.

Carulli said she has no problem having Judy, once she is paroled, live at Carulli’s residence, which is located 800 miles away from Jefferson County.

"Our son, John Paul Carulli, enjoyed visits from my mother (Judy) because she played with him on his level and slept in the lower bunk in the bunk beds with him," she said.

"I never saw her violent, but I saw her lose her temper because of what Elmer had done," Carulli said, adding that she didn't know how her mother held it together for so long.

"She just wanted out of this marriage, she didn't want any property and was willing to give Elmer everything," Carulli said.

William Carulli, Kim's husband, also spoke on Sprankle's behalf.
Dr. Joseph Silverman, a psychiatrist from Altoona, interviewed Judy for the defense and said he found no mental illness with her.

"Judy said she thought the situation with Elmer was intolerable and changed from flight orientation to fight orientation that day," Silver- man said, adding that she is no longer the victim of fear.

"After having evaluated her, I determined she does not present a danger to society," he said. "She has gained significant control in her situation with Mr. (Elmer) Sprankle and no longer presents a danger to him and would be a solid citizen in society."

Silverman said he had never seen someone so happy to be in jail to get away from the outside world.

"At the time of the shooting, she was not insane, but she was beyond reason," he said. "It was amazing she put up with the abuse that long."
Silverman said that in jail, Judy felt safe.

"I think she was vindicated from her ignorance in the abuse of her children from Elmer," Silverman said.

Elmer Sprankle did not speak during the sentencing.

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