GETTYSBURG, Pa. —Relatives of both a slain central Pennsylvania game warden and the man convicted of killing him have testified in the proceedings to determine whether the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole should be imposed.
A jury in Adams County made up of residents of Lancaster County, is hearing arguments during the sentencing phase of the trial of 29-year-old Christopher Johnson of Carroll Valley, Pa., who was convicted of first-degree murder on Tuesday in the November 2010 shooting death of wildlife conservation officer David Grove.
Investigators said Johnson and a friend had poached a deer at night when Grove, 31, pulled them over on a rural road near Gettysburg. The passenger said a shootout began after Johnson, a convicted felon, vowed never to go back to prison. Jurors were told the two men fired 25 shots in the exchange that left Grove dead and Johnson injured.
The (Hanover) Evening Sun said Grove’s mother, Lucy, testified Wednesday that her son died while doing his dream job.
“He loved to be with people, he loved his job, and he loved the outdoors,” she said. “He wanted to make people happy.”
She wept on the stand while describing the day police came to tell her that he had been killed, saying the loss was like a missing part of herself that she will never get back.
Johnson’s mother, Kim Topper, later testified that her son “was always a good and loving boy” who was now a loving father to his 8-year-old daughter. She said he had trouble paying attention in school but loved the outdoors and had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as depression.
On cross-examination, Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner said Johnson had a loving, stable family for most of his life. He also said he only lived with his daughter for certain periods, absent because he was in jail or she lived with other relatives.
Wagner also read to the jury some statements Topper had written seeking parole for her son almost a decade ago, saying he had learned his lesson and “will no longer be a menace.”
Grove is a graduate of Grace Academy in Hagerstown and lived in Waynesboro, Pa., before moving to the Fairfield, Pa., area.
Testimony in the penalty phase of the trial continues Thursday.