War of words over release of convicted murderer being told to deal with outstanding shoplifting charge in Delco

Jim Melwert
December 06, 2019 - 3:43 pm
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NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf’s office has accused Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland of trying to get in the way of the clemency of a man who’s been in prison for about 30 years.

David Sheppard, now 54, was one of four men convicted of the robbery and murder of pharmacy owner Thomas Brannan in Overbrook in 1992.

He was one of eight people recently granted clemency by Wolf, but Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is accusing Copeland of trying to block that clemency by filing a detainer against Sheppard, due to an open shoplifting case from 1992.

In a scathing email sent out Friday morning, Fetterman called it an example of prosecutorial abuse of power. 

But Copeland said no one is arresting anyone and noted that Sheppard skipped a hearing in 1992 and never dealt with it. She said he could have stepped forward at any time during his prison term, including several weeks ago when they brought it to his attention.

“We offered him the opportunity to either go to trial or come plead guilty and accept responsibility,” she said. “He chose instead to ignore that.”

She said when her office was notified his life sentence was being commuted, they told him and the governor’s office of the outstanding warrant. 

Copeland added there is the possibility that the charge is dealt with without any additional prison time.

Although his life sentence was commuted by Wolf, Sheppard will still have to spend a year in a halfway house. 

Copeland also argued Wolf and Fetterman are trying to divert attention since they did not notify Brannan’s family prior to the clemency and, contrary to state law, never gave them a chance to weigh in on his release.

“The victims deserve a right to be heard, and in this case, they were denied that right,” Copeland countered.

Copeland lost the recent election to Jack Stollsteimer, who will be sworn in next month. He admitted he’s skeptical of how the case is being handled, but he acknowledges he doesn’t have all the information.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.