A ‘senseless, barbaric act’ — (Lancaster New Era)

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Lancaster New Era

By Janet Kelley

Published: Oct 02, 2006 2:49 PM EST

Berks man pleads guilty, says he doesn’t remember beating death of 65-year-old Brecknock tire shop owner.

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA – Daniel Valverde’s death was described in court today as a senseless, “cruel and barbaric act’’ that changed the lives of his family and many friends forever.

But when Steven Michael Musser pleaded guilty this morning to beating the 65-year-old man to death inside his Brecknock tire shop last year, he told the judge he didn’t remember anything about it.

Musser, 32, of Mohnton, was pleading guilty, his attorney told the judge, knowing that a jury might sentence him to death.

Lancaster County Judge Joseph Madenspacher imposed a sentence of life in prison without parole, ordering Musser to pay $25,000 restitution for the victim’s funeral and counseling for the family.

“This was a cruel, barbaric and senseless act,’’ Madenspacher told Musser, adding that Valverde’s “family has suffered a terrible loss.’’

“The world lost a good person,’’ Assistant District Attorney Craig Stedman agreed with the judge. “To say this was a senseless crime is an understatement.’’

“There was no reason for this crime,’’ Stedman added, telling the judge that Valverde was apparently sleeping in a chair in his Reading Road shop on the morning of Sept. 20, 2005, when Musser hit him repeatedly from behind with a large wrench, stealing $36 in cash and an old Jeep.

“Nothing less than excellent police work followed,’’ Stedman continued, saying state police investigators “worked relentlessly during a nine-day period’’ to solve the crime.

Before the sentence was imposed, Valverde’s wife, Bernice, and two sons, Douglas and Michael, stood before the judge, weeping as they talked about the victim.

Mrs. Valverde said she thinks every day about her husband of 39 years, and how he died “in a cruel and barbaric act ­ and it charged our lives forever,’’ depriving them of a husband, father, grandfather and friend.

“We love and miss him in so many ways,’’ she said.

Michael Valverde remembered the victim as not only “a good father and a good man,’’ but someone who taught his friends in Lancaster County to “care about a tiny town thousands and thousands of miles away,’’ in his efforts to help educate and care for a poor village in Bolivia.

Douglas Valverde expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped resolve the case. “It’s a great help to our family,’’ he said.

Musser, a short, balding man with wire-rimmed glasses, his hair pulled back in a ponytail and tattoos along his arms, told the judge he had nothing to say.

Defense attorney Samuel Encarnacion told the judge his client takes various depression and pain medications for a leg injury.

Stedman told the court he will “always remember the hard work of the state police,’’ to solve the case, which he described as “a true who-done-it.’’

A friend of Valverde’s discovered the body in a pool of blood shortly after 10 a.m. that day, Stedman said.

Troopers immediately canvassed the area, Stedman said, learning that a man had been seen riding a bicycle in the area – a bicycle stolen and found outside the tire shop.

By stopping motorists and reviewing security tapes at nearby convenience stores, troopers found a picture of the man on the bicycle, released it to the media and found the suspect’s fingerprints on a discarded cup.

Musser was identified from the picture and in about a week, Stedman said, he was found staying with a friend. He was taken into custody and confessed to Trooper Henry Callithen.