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Woman acquitted of attempted murder, arson to serve max term on theft charge

A Dauphin County woman acquitted of trying to kill an individual by setting him on fire in May 2015 will face the statutory maximum term for theft by unlawful taking following a decision by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

The decision comes almost a year after Christina Leach filed an appeal in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County citing that her being sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison for theft reflected on the court’s “displeasure and disbelief regarding the not guilty verdicts” and focused primarily on “sympathy for the complainant,” according to the memorandum.

Leach was found not guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault and arson at trial in January 2017. The victim, Anthony Sferlazza, told police that Leach — after offering to give him a massage — tied him face down to the bed, poured a liquid on him and lit him on fire. Sferlazza eventually freed himself and drove in a spare vehicle to a Turkey Hill where he notified law enforcement that Leach stole a vehicle. Because of the incident, Sferlazza suffered burns over one-third of his body — most of which consisted of third-degree burns — and spent over 40 days in a medically induced coma, the memorandum says. Sferlazza still undergoes treatment for his injuries.

During sentencing, the judge noted that Leach “was convicted of this theft offense after she stole the victim’s car while he was on fire and burning alive in his home.” The judge continued, “In addition to stealing his car, she stole his cell phone and his wallet with no knowledge that he would otherwise be able to get help for his ongoing injuries. … Meanwhile, [Leach] had stole his car and phone, stopped for food, and attempted to use his ATM card without calling for help for Mr. Sferlazza whom she left on fire in his burning home. … This Court has rarely seen such a strong case of callous indifference to the value of human life and is confident that the only appropriate sentence in this case is the maximum sentence allowed by law. Any lesser sentence would depreciate the consequences of [Leach’s] actions.”

The Superior Court affirmed sentencing, writing that the court “provided ample reasons for the sentence imposed, which were based on the facts surrounding the theft, and not on the charges for which Leach was acquitted.” The Superior Court added, “… the court explained how Leach’s crime was significantly different from a typical theft case, thereby justifying a deviation from the guidelines.”