Perry County man pleads guilty in wife’s homicide — (The Sentinal)

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The Sentinal / Cumberlink.com

By Jason Scott, February 4, 2011

“When I lost my daughter Sherie, I lost everything,” an emotional Alma Deardorf said of her only child in Perry County Court Friday afternoon.

Nearly 16 months after Sherie Deardorf-Buck’s body was found riddled with gunshot wounds on her Perry County property, her family and friends watched as the man who killed her – her husband, Edward G. Buck – pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, aggravated assault (instead of voluntary manslaughter) and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited from doing so.

The firearms charge stemmed from Buck’s 1980 conviction on robbery charges in Northumberland County.

In her statement, Alma Deardorf said she “lost the true meaning of life” after her daughter was murdered.

“She was always first,” she said, sitting just a few feet away from her Buck. “Everything I did was for Sherie.”

Deardorf said she has been going to prayer groups every Wednesday for comfort. She also continues to work to keep her mind occupied, she said.

“Otherwise, I know I would just fall apart,” she said.

She said her daughter used to stop by to visit her every Monday and she talked about those daily conversations, which always ended with: “I love you, Sherie. I love you, mom.”

“I’m still waiting for that call,” Deardorf said.

The murder charge carries a penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison, while the other two counts carry prison time of 5 to 10 years each. The sentences will run consecutively, according to the plea deal worked out between Perry County District Attorney Charles Chenot and defense attorney Spero Lappas.

Chenot said Friday that his office was in ongoing negotiations with Lappas regarding the plea deal. Alma Deardorf was involved in those discussions and said she wanted Buck to be in prison for as long as she will be alive, he noted.

“It was a question of numbers on prison time,” Chenot said, as the guilty plea negated the possibility of the death penalty.

The DA said the aggravated assault charge, rather than a manslaughter charge, added about five more years to the sentence. The prosecution wanted at least 30 years of prison time in the plea deal, he indicated.

“This sentence is very difficult for me,” Deardorf told the judge. “I want Ed to suffer as my daughter did.”

She also said “he took my life” and “he ruined my life” in her prepared remarks about Buck during the sentencing.Deardorf said she cannot forgive Buck for what he has done.

“He took my love for life, which was Sherie,” she said.

Admission

Deardorf-Buck was 47 at the time of her death. Authorities said her mother, to whom she talked every day at lunch time, became worried and contacted police on Oct. 2, 2009, after she had not heard from her daughter.

Chenot said she disappeared on or about Sept. 30, 2009.

Deardorf-Buck’s body was found Oct. 7, 2009, under some brush on the couple’s property in the 1900 block of Honeysuckle Hollow Road in Saville Township with seven or eight gunshot wounds.

In Perry County Prison just after the discovery, Buck essentially admitted to the crime in a handwritten message found in his shirt pocket after he fell from the second floor of a cell block.

“I am very sorry,” said the apparent suicide note, which was addressed to Alma Deardorf. “I have killed the only person I have ever loved and who has loved me unconditionally. I cannot and will not live without Sherie.”

By the time Deardorf received the note, it said, he would already have done “what needs to be done.” The note asked Deardorf for forgiveness and for a home for the couple’s two beloved Rottweilers.

Death penalty

Chenot said pursuing the death penalty was never off the table in this case.

According to court documents, he filed a “Notice of Aggravating Circumstances” on Dec. 4, 2009, which is a required step to pursue a death penalty conviction.

As for a motive, Chenot has pointed to circumstances police mentioned in filing the charges: Buck’s having lost his job and, according to a friend of his wife’s, having marriage difficulties and facing the prospect of a divorce and his wife leaving him.

After the proceeding, when Buck was escorted out of the courtroom for transport to the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Camp Hill for processing, Deardorf said he was punished “justly.”

“Her death has left a void that can never be filled,” she said. “Today is a time to remember Sherie.”

Friends of Deardorf and her daughter also read statements – the bulk of those comments about the “extremely close” relationship between mother and daughter, as well as Deardorf-Buck’s love for her dogs.

Wearing orange prison garb and shackles, Buck got emotional as the statements were read aloud. He wiped his eyes several times, but offered no comments to the family or friends once given the opportunity.

Aside from “yes” and “no” responses, the only thing he said to the judge was that he takes prescribed medication for depression. Both Buck and his attorney indicated that the medication does not hinder his decision making and that he understood all terms of the deal.

“This is something you’re going to live with for the rest of your life,” Morrow said.

She also said to Deardorf that her daughter will never be forgotten. A quilt in the courthouse bears the names of county residents killed in criminal acts