Sentenced halved in fetus attack
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A woman who bashed her pregnant neighbor with a baseball bat and then tried to slice the unconscious woman's fetus from her abdomen saw her sentence reduced by half on Wednesday because of a legal mistake.
An Armstrong County judge re-sentenced Peggy Jo Conner, 45, of Manor, to 121/2 to 31 years in prison.
She had been serving 22 to 50 years for the 2005 attack on Valerie Oskin and her unborn baby.
Kenneth Valasek, the president judge in Armstrong County, ruled last year that he would reduce Ms. Conner's sentence because of an error in the plea she signed in 2007.
Ms. Conner pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal attempt to commit murder with serious bodily harm, which carries a 40-year maximum term.
But her public defender, Charles Pascal, argued that the language of the plea should have included only attempted murder, without the added element of bodily injury. That crime carries a sentence of 20 years.
In a Post-Conviction Relief Act petition, Mr. Pascal argued that Ms. Conner didn't understand the plea and that her previous lawyer, David DeFazio, was ineffective.
The judge agreed, saying Mr. DeFazio "failed to catch and correct the error."
The result is that Ms. Conner could be released in 51/2 years.
In October 2005, Ms. Conner beat Ms. Oskin and then drove her from her house in Manor to some woods and tried to cut her belly open with a razor.
A teenager who happened by on an ATV interrupted the attack and told his father, who called 911.
Ms. Oskin's baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section.
She recovered from her injuries and put the child up for adoption, which she had intended to do before the attack.
Mr. Pascal said Thursday that his client has been a model prisoner and that she now realizes the magnitude of what she did, something she did not understand at the time.
Ms. Oskin was angered by the original sentence, saying Ms. Conner deserved the maximum of 80 years. She could not be located Thursday, but she was not in the courtroom on Wednesday, nor did she present any letters to the court objecting to the new sentence.
The district attorney's office said it may appeal.
First Published September 21, 2012 12:00 am