State court denies new trial, upholds death sentence for Lancaster County man convicted of 2015 double murder
LANCASTER COUNTY — The state Supreme Court this week denied a Lancaster County man’s bid to overturn his conviction and death sentence for killing a woman and her daughter in 2015, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
Leeton Thomas was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and related charges in the killing of Lisa Scheetz and her 16-year-old daugther in an early morning attack at Scheetz’s home on June 11, 2015. The two victims were potential witnesses against Thomas in a pending sexual assault trial, according to the district attorney’s office.
Thomas also nearly killed Scheetz’s other daughter, who was 15 years old at the time, prosecutors say.
Thomas claimed his conviction went against the evidence presented at trial, and that an eyewitness should not have been permitted to testify.
The state court responded with a filing Tuesday that rejected Thomas’ claims, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
The state court is required to review all death sentences and, in this case, found the jury’s death verdict was not a “product of passion,” but rather involved a proper consideration of all evidence presented to them, the DA’s office said.
“The evidence was sufficient to support… aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt,” the appellate court’s 28-page opinion stated.
Then-First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen, who won the conviction, presented these aggravating factors to the jury:
- Thomas killed witnesses in a separate criminal prosecution (his pending sex-abuse case)
- Thomas committed the killing(s) during the commission of another felony (burglary)
- Thomas killed multiple people
- Thomas broke a court order (a no-contact order) during the killings
- Thomas presented a grave risk of death to another individual (the 15-year-old girl) besides those he killed.
The surviving daughter testified during the trial that “Pie” — a nickname for Thomas — was the killer.
While ordering the death sentence, President Judge Dennis Reinaker said that should Pennsylvania lift a moratorium on executions, Thomas “should go to the very top of the list.”
Assistant District Attorney Ande Gonzalez and First Assistant District Attorney Travis S. Anderson represented the Commonwealth in the post-conviction matters.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is absolutely appropriate,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Tuesday in a press release. “Leeton Thomas is evil defined. We have no doubt it was his intent to slaughter that family.”