DA seeks death penalty for killing

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio will seek the death penalty in the retrial of Paul Aaron Ross of Frankstown Township for the murder of a Hollidaysburg woman a decade ago.

Ross was tried in 2005 in the killing of 26-year-old Tina S. Miller.

He was found guilty of murder in the first degree, but a jury, after hearing details of Ross’s abusive childhood, recommended a life sentence.

Ross has been serving a life sentence plus 24 to 48 years in the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, Schuylkill County.

In 2011, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ordered a new trial, finding that Ross’s Altoona attorney, Thomas M. Dickey, was not given enough time to prepare his defense.

The Superior Court also ruled that testimony from three of Ross’s former girlfriends should not have been allowed in the trial.

The prosecution used testimony of “prior bad acts” from the former girlfriends to show Ross’s alleged brutality toward women and to show that his treatment of Miller on the night of June 25, 2004, was part of a behavioral pattern – a motive – that supported his conviction.

What followed the new trial ruling by the Superior Court was an attempt by Consiglio and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul to reverse the ruling and allow the original trial verdict to stand.

Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally ended the prosecution’s attempt to stave off a new trial on Oct. 22, the yearlong clock in which Blair County must retry Ross did not start ticking until Jan. 19 of this year, Consiglio said.

That was the day the record of the Ross case and the Superior and Supreme Court ruling upholding a new trial officially arrived back in Blair County, being filed in the Office of the Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts.

Consiglio got the ball rolling toward a retrial by filing a death penalty notice with the Prothonotary about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

In the notice, he listed two aggravating circumstances on which he will base the request for the death penalty: The killing occurred while Ross was committing a felony or felonies, and the killing involved torture.

Consiglio had no further comment on the case other than to confirm the death penalty notice was filed.

Miller and Ross met at a Hollidaysburg tavern on the evening of June 25 and were with a group of people at an after-hours get-together in a private home.

Testimony during the 2005 trial showed the two were dropped off at Canoe Creek State Park, near Ross’s home, the early morning of June 26.

Miller’s body was found partially submerged in Canoe Creek Lake the next morning.

Her arms and mouth had been duct-taped, and, according to Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross, the young woman died of a combination of drowning and strangulation.

Ross entered a not guilty plea, and the defense stated Ross did not know who killed Miller, only that she called someone else that night to come and pick her up at the park. Dickey was a late entry into the case and persistently argued that he did not have enough time to review the evidence and firm up his theory of the case prior to trial.

The prosecution contended that Dickey proclaimed he was ready for trial when he entered the case. Dickey could not be reached for comment Tuesday.