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‘Precipitating force’ in Lancaster teacher’s 2014 murder gets new prison sentence: 54 years to life

LANCASTER — One of two men convicted of murdering Lancaster County teacher Nicole Mathewson in 2014 received a new sentence Wednesday — but the terms of the sentence are unlikely to impact the amount of time he spends behind bars, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Marcus Rutter was originally sentenced to 54-109 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing Mathewson, a Brownstown Elementary School teacher, in her home.

Rutter, who was 16 at the time of the murder, later appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court for a lighter sentence. The Court ruled the initial sentence was inappropriate; Rutter should have received a max term of life in prison for his first-degree murder conviction, the DA’s Office said.

So, on Wednesday, Judge David Ashworth ordered a new sentence of 54 years to life in prison.

Rutter, 20, who is now an inmate in Clearfield County, appeared in the courtroom via video conference, according to the DA’s office.

Rutter and another man, Thomas Moore, now 29, were charged with robbing and killing Mathewson after breaking into her home on the 700 block of North Franklin Street on Dec. 15, 2015.

Moore, who was 25 years old at the time, was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years, for his role in the murder.

Mathewson was beaten to death inside her home. Her debit card, vehicle, and other items were stolen, according to the DA.

Rutter took Mathewson’s cellphone and used it to access Facebook – while she was bound and gagged in her home, according to testimony at his trial.

In all, Rutter pleaded guilty in 2016 to:

  • first-degree murder
  • conspiracy to first-degree murder
  • burglary
  • robbery
  • receiving stolen property
  • access device fraud

At Wednesday’s hearing, First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen said he would be “hard pressed to find (a crime) as evil as the one before you.”

In arguing for a lighter sentence, Rutter’s defense pointed out his accomplishments and program involvement as an inmate.

“Nicole Mathewson no longer exists,” Larsen countered. “She doesn’t get to work out in the sun. She doesn’t get to visit with her family.”

While ordering the new sentence, Judge Ashworth called Rutter the “precipitating force” in the crime, having watched Mathewson’s North Franklin Street home before it was chosen as a target.

The crime, Judge Ashworth said, “was violent in the extreme.”

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