Murderer petitions for early release

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An Altoona man who was sentenced to life behind bars for a murder 27 years ago this month is asking for bail because, he claims, “I have satisfied my sentence.”

The inmate, William Paul Saltsman, now 47, on Monday sent a petition to the office of the Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts stating he is requesting bail under the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions.

He has asked for a hearing before the Blair County Court.

The prothonotary has forwarded the petition to the Blair County court administrator, who has not set a hearing date.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio was perplexed by Saltsman’s petition.

While he knows little about the case, pointing out it was disposed of before he became a prosecutor, Consiglio said he has never seen anything like it.

Saltsman gives no hint as to his reasoning

“I don’t see what he thinks he has a right to,” Consiglio said.

Consiglio said that when the hearing is scheduled, he will ask for a prehearing conference in hopes of receiving further explanation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said that Saltsman remains an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford and that his life sentence has not been commuted or altered in any way.

Saltsman, in his petition, said that “after years of sedulous pro se work,” meaning he is representing himself, he has concluded that his sentence has been satisfied.

Another person who

doesn’t understand the request is former Blair County Assistant District Attorney Darlee Sill, who now has a private practice in Hollidaysburg.

Sill prosecuted Saltsman for murder but announced early on that he wasn’t seeking the death penalty because the “aggravating circumstances” that must be proven under Pennsylvania law were not present.

For instance, Saltsman had no prior record.

Sill said Tuesday the case was concluded when Saltsman entered pleas to first-degree murder, robbery, possession of instruments of crime and a firearms violation.

“I just wanted to make sure he never gets out,” Sill said while explaining his intent in accepting a plea agreement.

Former Judge R. Bruce Brumbaugh sentenced Saltsman to life plus 12-25 years.

Attorney William Haberstroh was the district attorney at the time, while Saltsman was represented by former Blair

County Judge Norman D. Callan.

Callan said Saltsman initially hesitated to plead guilty but eventually agreed.

“We entered into a plea agreement to save his life,” Callan said Tuesday.

He, however, has not been in contact with Saltsman over the years and has no insight into Saltsman’s present petition.

Saltsman was charged with robbing Reighard’s Gas Station at 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue, taking $90.

According to the charges, he forced at gunpoint the 21-year-old night clerk to the area of Tuckahoe Park, behind the Altoona Bible Church, and killed him, using a .45-caliber handgun that the prosecution contended in 1987 was given to Saltsman by a 28-year-old man.

It took city police three days to solve the case.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.