• 50°

Volgares faces penalty hearing

Jack Volgares will appear Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to face a another sentencing for crimes that led to the death of his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Seleana Gamble.

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Jack Volgares will appear Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to face a another sentencing for crimes that led to the death of his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Seleana Gamble.

In May, the Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed the 1997 murder-manslaughter convictions of Jack and Mona Volgares.

Volgares received a 37-years-to-life prison term, but appeals judges ruled that sentences given for some specific crimes were not explained enough to satisfy new sentencing guidelines, county prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said.

"I think courts throughout the state are working with the new criteria and it’s dramatically different than the old law," said Collier, who prosecuted Volgares.

When sentencing, a judge has to spell out in detail why sentences are given, especially if sentences are to be served one after the other, he said.

"Really, there are certain matters that have be on record to show the judge considered them," Collier said. "I felt the court pretty much covered everything at trial, but the court of appeals, in reviewing it, felt it could have been a little clearer."

As part of a Fourth District Court of Appeals order, Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Walton will re-sentence Volgares on murder, obstructing justice, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Collier plans to ask that the original penalty of 37 years to life be imposed.

During Volgares’ appeal, attorneys Mark McCown and Marty Stillpass claimed evidence did not support all elements of the state’s murder statute, specifically the intent to kill.

Writing the majority opinion for the three-judge appellate panel, Judge William Harsha presented precedent cases that supported the prosecution’s argument.

"It will be the same circumstances (at the resentencing), so we foresee the same sentence," Collier said.

Volgares’s attorneys will have a chance to speak at Wednesday’s hearing, as will prosecutors.

The 1997 court case stemmed from an argument during which Volgares shoved Seleana. The couple did not seek medical attention for the child, who never regained consciousness.

They buried Seleana in the side yard of her Phillip Street home, then fled the state with their three other children.

Seleana’s body was discovered Sept. 7 and a nationwide manhunt ensued.

They were later captured in Oklahoma after an episode of America’s Most Wanted.

Volgares was convicted of Seleana’s murder Dec. 4, 1997, for causing fatal injuries when he shoved her for not doing what he asked.

Mrs. Volgares was convicted Dec. 16 and later sentenced to 25 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping and other charges.