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Court upholds Monessen man’s sentence for manslaughter of mom’s boyfriend

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Christopher Allshouse is on trial in Westmoreland County for killing his mother-in-law.

A Pennsylvania appeals court upheld a Monessen man’s 10- to 20-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter, ruling comments by the trial judge about the excess of firing eight shots in self-defense were enough to justify a stiffer sentence.

Christopher Allshouse, now 44, was drinking a beer and watching a movie at home the night of Feb. 12, 2014, when his mother’s boyfriend, James Ritter, 54, returned from a night of drinking, started arguing with Allshouse and lunged at him. Allshouse drew his .22-caliber handgun and fired eight shots — blindly, he said at trial — striking Ritter four times and killing him.

A Westmoreland County jury convicted Allshouse of voluntary manslaughter , and Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway sentenced him in January 2017. He appealed.

In a ruling Tuesday, the state Superior Court affirmed Hathaway’s sentence, rejecting Allshouse’s appeal that it should be vacated because it exceeded Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines.

When a sentence exceeds state recommendations, the judge must provide a written statement as to why, Allshouse’s appeal argued. But the three-judge panel believed that Hathaway’s statements on the trial record and in Allshouse’s presence were sufficient to justify going above the recommended sentence.

“The victim was obviously drunk and (appellant) was younger than the victim and probably stronger than the victim,” Hathaway said at the time, according to the trial transcript cited by the Superior Court. “The fact that he had to fire eight shots in self-defense. … That seems very extreme for a person trying to protect themselves and protect his mother.”

The court also rejected Allshouse’s argument that the trial court erred in allowing statements he made to police at his house and at the magistrate’s office into evidence, citing that he had nodded to acknowledge that he understood his Miranda rights not to answer questions without an attorney and waived them by speaking with police anyway.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, [email protected] or via Twitter @msantoni.

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