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Saturday, December 18, 1999
By Lawrence Walsh, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
After describing the presentence report on Joel T. Sherako as “the most frightening I’ve read in eight years on the bench,” Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman sentenced the former Natrona Heights resident to serve 20 to 40 years in prison for the gruesome murder of his maternal grandfather.
Sherako, 30, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder on Thursday to the stabbing death of Joseph Fiedorek, 78. Fiedorek, who had cared for Sherako despite his propensity for violence, was found May 31, 1998, in the dining room of the house they shared on Cambridge Street.
“He stabbed his grandfather 29 times, penetrating every vital organ in his body,” Cashman said. “He had knives hidden in the furniture throughout his grandfather’s house so he would always have one accessible to him.”
When the judge asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced, Sherako stared at Cashman and silently mouthed the word “no.”
“He wasn’t so much looking through me as past me,” Cashman said. “He is a very sick man.”
In his sentencing order, Cashman said Sherako must be sent to a prison with a mental health unit and monitored on a regular basis. “You are severely mentally ill and a danger to not only your remaining family members but to anyone who comes in contact with you,” Cashman told Sherako.
Dr. Christine Martone, chief psychiatrist with the county’s Behavior Clinic, said Sherako is a schizophrenic who is taking medication to treat his illness. If he doesn’t keep taking it, she said he could relapse and become psychotic.
In 1985, when he was 16, Sherako attempted to kill his father and sister with a 12-inch kitchen knife in the family home in Cherry Hill, N.J. His father, Thomas Sherako, was talking on the phone to a psychiatrist about his son when Joel Sherako came up behind him and stabbed him in the back.
When his father fell to the floor gravely wounded, Sherako attacked his sister, Carolyne, 11. She sustained minor wounds before fleeing to a neighbor’s home. Father and daughter recovered from their wounds. Joel Sherako was tried in connection with the attacks but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He moved to Natrona Heights shortly afterward.
Thomas Sherako said he lives in fear of his son “attacking me again.” His wife, Marilyn, said she also is afraid of her son.