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John Amos SMALL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Attempted rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 5, 1981
Date of birth: 1960
Victim profile: Cheryl Smith, 17
Method of murder: Beating with a rock
Location: York County, Pensilvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 19, 1996

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania


opinion J-101-2006


John Amos Small, 49, was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith, whose body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981. Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in October by Rendell. He is scheduled for execution on Dec. 16, 2009. Small filed a petition for a stay of execution before the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania on Oct. 30.


Governor Rendell Signs Warrants for John Amos Small


Oct. 28, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed execution warrant for John Amos Small, 49, who sexually assaulted and murdered a woman in York County in 1981.

In August 1981, John Small and his friend, James Frey, sexually assaulted and beat to death 18-year-old Cheryl Smith in a wooded area in West Manheim Township, York County. After over a decade of silence from several witnesses, police finally charged Small and Frey in Smith's death.

In 1996, a jury convicted Small of first-degree murder and attempted rape and then sentenced him to death. The state Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence in November 1999 and denied reargument in January 2000. After filing a Post Conviction Relief Act petition, Small was granted a new trial, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision and reinstated the death sentence on Oct. 5.

Small's execution by lethal injection is set for Dec. 16.


Governor signs death warrant in York County murder case

By Elizabeth Evans - The York Dispatch

Oct 29, 2009

A former Hanover man who killed a 17-year-old girl in a remote wooded area of West Manheim Township in 1981 could be put to death before Christmas.

Gov. Ed Rendell on Wednesday signed the death warrant for John Amos Small, 49, convicted in May 1996 of the bludgeoning death and attempted rape of Cheryl Marie Smith in a wooded party spot known as "The Pines."

"Finally -- justice for Cheryl Smith and her family," District Attorney Stan Rebert said Thursday morning.

Small is set to die by lethal injection on Dec. 16 at the state prison in Greene, the governor's office said.

Rendell previously signed two death warrants for Small, both in 2001, but both execution dates were stayed pending appeals, according to state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan Bensinger.

Small came close to avoiding a death sentence. In December 2004, a judge overturned John Small's conviction and ordered he receive a new trial.

But earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned that ruling and upheld the conviction.

Rebert called the ruling "huge," and chief deputy prosecutor Chuck Patterson -- who tried the case -- said he was relieved.

Patterson said he has "not one speck of doubt" that Small murdered Smith.

The background

A hunter stumbled upon Cheryl Smith's badly decomposed body Sept. 15, 1981, five weeks after she disappeared, just east of Kridler's Schoolhouse Road and yards from the Maryland state line.

The Midway, Adams County, teen was nude from the waist down and missing several front teeth. Her skull was smashed. Prosecutors said they believe two blows to Smith's head, delivered by a rock or similar hard object, killed her.

They also said they believe her assailants tried to rape her. But because of the body's decomposition, forensics experts could not determine whether that was the case.

Smith was murdered in the woods where a number of teens and young adults were having a drinking party. Although a number of those partygoers -- including friends of the victim -- knew what happened, none came forward, police said.

"After over a decade of silence from several witnesses, police finally charged Small ... in Smith's death," Rendell's office said.

Ex-wife broke case

Smith's murder went unsolved until the mid-1990s, when Small's ex-wife, Janice Small, broke years of silence and told police her husband and her brother-in-law, Charles Small, 58, of New Oxford, came home early on Aug. 6, 1981, and told her they had hit a woman over the head and dumped her body in the woods.

The Small brothers, James Paul Frey, 52, formerly of Heidelberg Township, and Lawrence Neil Tucker, 45, formerly of Littlestown, all were charged with homicide and attempted rape.

Frey is serving eight to 18 years in prison after pleading no contest to third-degree murder.

Tucker struck a deal with prosecutors and testified at trial in exchange for a lesser sentence. He pleaded guilty to interfering with the investigation and received 20 to 40 months in prison.

Charges against Charles Small were dropped because prosecutors believed his assertion that he was in Florida at the time of the murder; however, they later suspected he had lied, they said.

In September 2003, charges of perjury and false swearing were filed against Charles Small, but were later withdrawn.



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