A prison inmate was made eligible Thursday for parole from a sentence for killing his mother over 40 years ago in Columbia.
Gregory S. Sourbeer was convicted of first-degree murder in 1976 and sentenced to life in prison for shooting his mother that same year, when he was 14.
On Thursday in Lancaster County Court, Sourbeer, now 56, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Sourbeer has already served 41 years in prison, so he is eligible for a hearing before a parole board at a date to be determined.
A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that deemed life sentences against juveniles “unconstitutional” prompted the resentencing of Sourbeer – and 11 other inmates serving life terms for killings they committed as juveniles in Lancaster County.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has provided guidelines, which in Sourbeer’s case, call for a minimum 25-year prison term.
Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker said he must consider Sourbeer’s - and other lifers up for parole - amenability to treatment and likelihood to become law-abiding members of society when ordering sentence, as outlined by the higher courts.
“Mr. Sourbeer has been institutionalized for 40 years,” President Judge Reinaker said. “But that is all I have to go by.”
During the hour-long hearing, two longtime friends of Sourbeer’s testified that Sourbeer will live with them in New Holland – if he is paroled.
Sourbeer testified of the programs he’s completed and jobs he’s performed during his time at multiple state-prison facilities.
Assistant District Attorney Travis S. Anderson pointed out that Sourbeer’s testimony included no mention of Fannie Sourbeer or the impact of his crime.
“The facts remain horrifying: (Sourbeer), in cold blood and with premeditation, murdered his mother with a shotgun blast,” Anderson said. “He did not say a word about that offense.”
“Mr. Sourbeer had over 40 years to think about what he would say when given a real chance at parole and he did not say a single word about his victim, his mother, or the devastation and fear his crime initiated,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said after the hearing. “He remains a remorseless, cold-blooded murderer, but now he will be free.”
Sourbeer’s brother and the brother’s sister-in-law were present for the hearing. They opposed Sourbeer being paroled, as Anderson did in making argument in front of President Judge Reinaker.
Anderson pointed out that nearly all of the programming Sourbeer completed happened since 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruling offered parole possibility.
“It should call to question the defendant’s commitment to rehabilitation,” Anderson said. “The Commonwealth questions whether the defendant is ready to be released.”
As part of sentence, Sourbeer is to have no contact with the brother or his family. Also, Sourbeer is not permitted in Columbia or East Hempfield and West Hempfield townships, where family reside.
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