2 convicted in 2001 Bell Twp. murder re-sentenced
Tyler Gett has just a few fuzzy memories of his grandfather, murdered nearly 18 years ago in a Bell Township field.
On Monday, Gett, 22, along with other family members watched as two of the now-grown men convicted of the beating and shooting death in 2001 of 48-year-old Larry Dunmire were given a reprieve that will allow them to eventually leave prison.
James Provitt and Bryan Chambers, now both 35, were re-sentenced to serve 27 years to life in prison for their role in Dunmire’s murder. Both were originally ordered to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole but a change in state law and subsequent court rulings made it unconstitutional for juveniles to be sentenced to mandatory life terms.
Provitt and Chambers were both 17 when they were arrested.
For the Dunmire family, the years haven’t made it any easier for them to deal with the ramifications of Larry Dunmire’s murder.
“I have memories, that’s all,” said Gett, as he described those long ago memories of his grandfather attending his fifth birthday party on a dirt bike and celebrating Easter along with his dog Grizz.
Gett’s mother, Anita, was just 21 when her father was killed. She said she agreed with the reduced sentences imposed Monday.
“We’re not comfortable with it, but we’re OK with it,” said Anita Gett. “It’s been very hard. My dad meant everything to me.”
Prosecutors said Dunmire, of Kiskiminetas Township in Armstrong County, was lured to Bell Township by Provitt, Chambers and another man, along with three woman, who intended to steal his drugs.
Provitt was convicted by a Westmoreland County jury of first-degree murder and Chambers was found guilty of second-degree murder. A third man, John Grant Smith, now 35, was convicted of third-degree murder in connection with Dunmire’s death and is serving a 20-to-40-year prison sentence.
The three women involved in the plot all pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree murder and were sentenced to five-to-10-year prison sentences after they agreed to testify against their male co-defendants.
In court Monday, both Chambers and Provitt apologized to the Dunmire family for their roles in the murder.
“I am extremely sorry for what took place. I’m not proud of it. It humiliated me and my family,” Chambers said.
Provitt offered similar comments.
“There is nothing I can do to bring your father back. I understand the pain you’re in and I want to apologize,” Provitt said.
Both men were given credit for time already served since their arrests. As a result they will be eligible for parole in about nine years.
“I feel your statements were sincere and I can only pray you meant everything you said,” said Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani after he imposed the new sentences. “This gives you an opportunity to get your life back, not today and not tomorrow but one day. You can see the reaction after all this time. This is still fresh to them and now you have another chance.”
The sentences agreed to Monday were identical to deals both rejected last year. Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said he approved of the new sentences to ensure both Provitt and Chambers received substantial prison terms while conceding that while incarcerated they have shown some movement towards rehabilitation.
“They are different now then they were when they were 17,” Peck said.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections said there were originally 522 inmates impacted by the court rulings in 2012 and 2016 that determined juveniles could not serve mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole. Through Jan. 4, 399 of those juvenile lifers have received new sentences, including 163 who have since been released from prison.
In Westmoreland County, Provitt and Chambers became the first two juvenile lifers to receive reduced prison sentences under the new law. Angela Marinucci, now 26, is one of six Greensburg roommates convicted for the 2010 torture and slaying of a mentally disabled woman and has twice been sentenced to life without parole. Marinucci, who was 17 when she was arrested, is expected to receive a new sentence later this year.
John Veltre Jr. was 16 in 1973 when he was charged with killing 2-year-old Sandra Dee Morgan and her 3-month-old sister, Tina, in Monessen. Police said Veltre threw both babies into a wall and stomped on the older child after he raped their mother and left her unconscious in her home. Veltre, now 62, last month filed a request seeking a new lawyer to defend him in his efforts for a new sentence.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]