Reject murderer’s request

Murderer William Paul Saltsman believes he has paid his debt to society and should be released from his life-plus-12-to-25-year prison sentence.

He’s wrong. His victim can’t be brought back, and Saltsman’s request should be rejected.

Saltsman doesn’t even deserve a hearing but apparently will get one.

The court system shouldn’t have to waste its time on a killer who has come to regard himself as a victim.

A victim Saltsman is not. He should be content with having avoided the death sentence that many people feel he deserved.

Saltsman’s punishment stemmed from his killing of a 21-year-old night clerk at Reighard’s Gas Station at 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue in Altoona 27 years ago.

Saltsman wasn’t content with the $90 that the robbery netted him. He forced the clerk at gunpoint to an area of Tuckahoe Park behind the Altoona Bible Church, where he killed him using a .45-caliber handgun.

Saltsman’s freedom after the robbery-murder was short-lived. It took city police only three days to solve the crime.

Former Judge R. Bruce Brumbaugh sentenced Saltsman as part of a plea arrangement.

Now Saltsman feels he has paid a big enough price for his brutal action and should be allowed to re-enter society. The fact is, he’ll never pay a big enough price for having snuffed out the life of his victim.

That’s the message the Blair County Court should deliver if his request makes its way to a hearing.

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

His use of those words indicates he’s spent a lot of time at his prison’s library doing research for his petition. He is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.

The court shouldn’t be impressed by his newfound legal vocabulary.

The Blair County District Attorney’s Office made the decision early on not to seek the death penalty for Saltsman because the “aggravating circumstances” that must be proven under Pennsylvania law were not present.

But former Assistant District Attorney Darlee Sill, who prosecuted Saltsman, said Tuesday that his acceptance of the plea agreement was rooted in the fact that “I just wanted to make sure he never gets out.”

Saltsman entered guilty pleas to charges of first-degree murder, robbery, possession of instruments of crime and a firearm’s violation.

His attorney at the time, former Blair County Judge Norman D. Callan, said, “We entered into a plea agreement to save his life.”

A terrible precedent would be set if Saltsman’s petition is successful. There probably would be a flood of petitions from other killers with the same misguided mind-set.

Saltsman is where he belongs, and he never again should enjoy freedom.

His petition is but a mockery of the court system that acted correctly when it handed down a sentence intended to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

The court should deliver the message to Saltsman that his legal research was a waste of time.