Former prisoner dies, civil suit continues
Kevin C. Siehl, a Johnstown man who won his release from a life sentence — after a judge found the evidence used to convict him of murdering his wife in 1992 was tainted — has died, but his lawsuit against the prosecutors and police who brought the charges against him will continue.
“This case will proceed,” said Siehl’s Philadelphia attorney, Jonathan H. Feinberg, who filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Johnstown, on Siehl’s behalf four years ago.
“Mr. Siehl’s son, Kevin C.Siehl II (of Windber), is pursuing the case on behalf of his father’s estate, and Mr. Siehl’s entire family intends to fully pursue the accountability for which Mr. Siehl fought so long,” stated Feinberg on Thursday.
Feinberg’s statement came just days after U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan, who was assigned the case by U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson, granted a request allowing the son, as administrator of Siehl’s estate, to become the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Under federal law, Feinberg argued,“the court may order the substitution of the deceased party’s successor or representative.”
No trial date has been set.
Siehl, who was 66 when he died in March, was arrested for the murder of his estranged wife, Christine.
Although Christine Siehl and her husband were separated, they still went on a date on the evening of July 13, 1991.
Kevin Siehl said he took his wife to her apartment after their date and then went to his parents’ home for the night.
Christine Siehl’s body was found in her shower the next day after tenants complained that water was coming from her apartment.
She had been stabbed about 20 times.
Kevin Siehl denied involvement in the murder and maintained that he was at his parents’ home at the time of his wife’s death.
The investigation into the death was led by Johnstown police officers Angelo Cancellieri and Lawrenace Wagner. They were assisted by state police personnel Merrill Brant and Scott Ermlick.
Police concluded that Siehl had killed his wife, and the case was prosecuted by Cambria County District Attorney David Tulowitzki, who is now a common pleas court judge, and Assistant District Attorney David Lovette.
Those six individuals are named as the defendants in the lawsuit.
After his conviction and life-without-parole sentence were imposed, Siehl filed repeated appeals.
With the aid of the Innocence Project, Siehl was able to successfully challenge the evidence that was used to convict him.
Senior Judge David Grine of Centre County in 2016 vacated Siehl’s conviction and life sentence.
The Pennsylvania attorney general decided not to retry Siehl.
The lawsuit contends that some of the evidence and police reports used to convict Siehl were fabricated and that exculpatory evidence was withheld.
The defendants have challenged those conclusions.
The civil lawsuit has been proceeding slowly through the federal court for more than four years.
A trial has been delayed as insurance companies battle among themselves as to which will end up paying if the Siehl estate is entitled to damages.
An attempt to resolve the case through mediation failed last September.
Last year, Johnstown police received a telephone tip that someone other than Kevin Siehl may have killed Christine.
Cambria County authorities asked Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks to assign an investigator to look into the tip.
Weeks, who said Thursday he was happy to cooperate with Cambria officials, had a detective from his office interview individuals mentioned in the tip.
“That didn’t really turn up anything of substance,” he said Thursday.
The Siehl lawsuit contends that his 25 years behind bars resulted in his poor health.
He emerged from prison with “severe heart problems,” allegedly due to delayed medical treatment, and he had vision problems stemming from a head-butt from another inmate.
Siehl is survived by a son and a daughter, two grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and a brother.