New Castle News

March 8, 2013

Judge considers motion in homicide cold case

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox is considering removing the death penalty in an upcoming homicide trial.

Sean M. McDonough, 40, of Thibodaux, La., faces multiple charges stemming from the 1993 murder of 15-year-old Laura Lynn Thompson. The teen, last seen Jan. 7, 1993, was thought to be a runaway until information was received in 2010.

McDonough, extradited from Louisiana, has been held without bond in the Lawrence County jail since Oct. 13, 2010. He was initially charged with criminal homicide; murder in the first, second and third degrees; conspiracy to commit homicide; conspiracy to commit murder in the first, second and third degrees; abuse of a corpse; rape of an unconscious victim; rape by forcible compulsion; and five other conspiracy charges.

Since then, the second-degree murder charge, all conspiracy charges and both rape charges have been dismissed. The abuse of a corpse and conspiracy charges were withdrawn.

Court-appointed defense attorney Randall T. Hetrick of Mercer, who asked to have the death penalty removed, also requested that the judge dismiss all charges under rule 600. That section of the Pennsylvania Rules for Criminal Procedure ensures a speedy trial.

Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa Thursday asked Cox to “take judicial notice” of the voluminous case file.

“The commonwealth needs time,” he said.

Cox addressed both matters Thursday by granting both parties more time to file briefs and noting Lamancusa still has time to decide if he will appeal the dismissal of the rape charges to the Superior Court.

The death penalty hinges on the rape charges, according to Hetrick.

“There is only one aggravating circumstance in the case, the rape,” Hetrick said. If the district attorney does not appeal or if the Superior Court doesn’t overturn the local court, “then the death penalty is off the table.”

Cox continued the death penalty hearing to Thursday, noting it may not be necessary if Lamancusa does not appeal.

Thursday, Lamancusa declined to say if he would appeal.

In February 2011, Lamancusa said he would seek the death penalty for McDonough.

In July 2010, law enforcement officials were told McDonough and Joseph Marshall Jr., 41, of Pulaski, may have killed Laura’s death.

Marshall is charged with criminal homicide; murder in the first, second and third degrees; abuse of a corpse; and multiple counts of criminal conspiracy. According to court records, he is lodged without bond in the Mercer County prison.

Police were told Laura had been killed and buried in Shenango Township, but her body later dumped in Hickory Township. Various law enforcement officials searched unsuccessfully for the remains. No body has been found.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)