State Superior Court upholds sentence for Hummelstown man serving life for 1984 murder

HUMMELSTOWN — The state Superior Court ruling has upheld the life sentence of a Hummelstown man who murdered his boss’ wife in 1984, according to court documents.

Robert Allen Bittiger was 19 years old when he committed the crime. He would only be eligible for a less-than-life sentence if he’d been under 18 when he did it, according to the court’s opinion, written by Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr.

In the appeal of his sentence, Bittinger argued that state judges should stretch a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that barred automatic life sentences for juvenile offenders.

The Superior Court did not buy that argument.

In 1984, according to reports in the Harrisburg Patriot-News from the time, Bittinger was recruited by his boss at a sporting goods warehouse in Lower Paxton Township to murder his boss’ 21-year-old wife, Tammy. Bittinger’s boss, Daniel Howard, promised to pay him $500 to commit the murder. (He never did.)

Howard was reportedly having an affair with a coworker.

On the night of the murder, Howard gave Bittinger off work and provided a key to his home in Lower Swatara Township. Bittinger said that he bound Tammy Howard’s hands and feet, gagged her, and slit her throat.

The Howards’ 4-month-old son was unharmed.

Bittinger said he returned to work after the killing.

Daniel Howard called police the next morning and claimed his wife had been killed during a robbery.

Bittinger pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March 1985. He testified against Daniel Howard in a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.

Bittinger, now 53, is serving his life sentence at a state prison at Mahanoy.

Howard, 56, is in prison at Fayette.