A former Baldwin Borough man who once faced death by lethal injection for killing a gun shop manager will plead guilty next week to first-degree murder and receive a life term at his resentencing, his attorney said Thursday.
John Elash said Ralph Bolden, 35, will enter the plea in the slaying of John Calabro, 50, during a robbery at the former Valor Hi-Adventure Sports Shop in Baldwin Borough on July 30, 1994.
Bolden’s first-degree murder conviction was upheld last June, but the state Supreme Court overturned the death penalty because the prosecution asked the jury to consider an improper reason to reach its decision.
By a 6-1 vote, the appellate court ordered a new sentencing hearing to be conducted by Common Pleas Judge David S. Cercone.
Elash, who represented Bolden on appeal but not at trial, said the district attorney’s office has agreed to Bolden’s guilty plea and a mandatory life term without chance of parole, dropping its pursuit of the death penalty.
The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the case. The resentencing hearing is scheduled before Cercone at 1:30 p.m. March 9.
Calabro was shot in the forehead at close range during the holdup in which rifles and handguns were stolen.
Another store employee, Michael Elder, who reported to work shortly after Calabro was killed, was shot in the face but survived.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice John P. Flaherty, who wrote the majority opinion that overturned Bolden’s death sentence, said Cercone had erred in permitting the jury to consider that the defendant had created ‘a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the murder.’
Bolden presented testimony that he suffered from a psychiatric disorder. He said that prevented him from forming the specific intent to kill.
Robert Baird can be reached at (412) 391-8650.