Murder-Suicide Investigation Continues
In the days following the February 20 murder of 39-year-old Tina Marie Souders, family and friends have spent much time remembering – reminiscing about how excited the Fulton County native was about her nursing career; how much she loved and doted on her sons; her fun-loving attitude; and how she touched the hearts of everyone she came to know.
In the back of everyone’s minds also looms the ultimate question whether things could have turned out differently had certain precautions or measures been taken following the initial arrest of Ricky Hann.
The 51-year-old McConnellsburg man was taken into custody during the mid afternoon hours on Saturday, February 19, after he allegedly held Souders against her will for a 24-hour time frame at her 5895 Cito Road home. In an affidavit of probable cause, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Garry Ford Jr. said Hann entered the Ayr Township residence while Souders was sleeping. When she refused to go for a ride with him, Hann is accused of pulling pieces of a gun out of a camouflage bag and assembling a sawed-off shotgun.
“She (Souders) said that she begged him not to do anything with her 14-yearold son in the house ... . She related that she begged for her life, and he finally calmed down and asked what was going on with them because he didn’t want to live without her,” the affidavit stated.
After convincing him he needed to get help and speak to someone, Hann reportedly agreed to go to Chambersburg Hospital if Souders drove him. The shotgun was dropped off at Hann’s residence located at 892 Lincoln Way West prior to their trip to Franklin County. The affidavit indicates that upon arriving at the hospital, Hann lied to the doctors, who in turn OK’d him to return home.
In the affidavit Trooper Ford stated, “When I asked why she (Souders) didn’t say anything while at the hospital, she related that she was scared for her life. She related that he told her not to say a word and that she didn’t know what he would have done if she said something.”
Souders and Hann subsequently returned to her trailer, but he left Saturday afternoon after receiving a call on his cellphone about signing papers for a job.
“Souders said that she talked him into letting her drop him off at his place to get his car so that she could drive to her mother’s ... . She said that she was scared to report it because if he didn’t get locked up she was afraid that he would kill her,” said the affidavit.
On a tip that his vehicle was spotted in the McConnellsburg area, Hann was arrested and arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Carol Jean Johnson on one count each of kidnapping, burglary, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault. Unable to post $100,000 straight bail, Hann was remanded to the Franklin County Prison.
At approximately 11 p.m. on February 19, Hann was able to post bail with the help of his employer, who needed his assistance at work that week. Hann returned to Souders’ home the following day, dragged her into the woods behind the residence and fired three shots that ended her life as well as his.
Autopsies performed at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown last Tuesday revealed Souders died as a result of two gunshot wounds. Manner of death was found to be homicide, while Hann’s death was listed as suicide, Fulton County Coroner
Berley Souders reported.
Under public scrutiny for her decision to set bail at $100,000, Judge Johnson told the “News”, “I could have set bail higher, but $100,000 is a lot of money here in Fulton County.”
The judge went on to say she felt she didn’t have all of the pertinent information that would have ultimately changed her mind regarding the level of bail. While Johnson did admit she inadvertently missed the sentence on the two-page affidavit that said there was an active protectionfrom abuse (PFA) order against Hann, she pointed out there were not any charges filed against Hann regarding being in contempt of that final order that was issued by the court on September 28, 2010. In addition, further paperwork regarding the PFA and prior record was placed on the desk of an office secretary and never seen by the judge or her office staff until after the conclusion of the three-day holiday weekend.
Johnson adamantly refuted statements previously made by law enforcement officials that a request was made for bail to be set in the amount of $500,000. She noted she discussed $50,000 with the troopers involved, but then decided to raise the amount to $100,000 as a precaution. Furthermore, she said bail is not considered a punishment but is a discretionary tool used primarily by judges as a means of ensuring a defendant will reappear in court if released from jail.
Following up on the judge’s statements, bail bondsman Paul Wechter confirmed the posting of bonds corresponds with the availability of the defendant to appear for court proceedings. In this particular case as well as other cases brought to his attention, Wechter stated he reviews a list of 10 criteria before deciding to help post bond. Among those criteria are where and how long a defendant has resided; community ties; age and number of children; and employment status.
Unless charged with a capital offense such as criminal homicide, a defendant has the right to have bail set. In cases where a defendant believes their bail has been set too high, a hearing may be held before a Court of Common Pleas judge to have that amount lowered, said Wechter.
In posting bond on behalf of Hann, Wechter stated part of the deal for release involved property. In the event that the magisterial district judge had set the amount at a higher level, Wechter said he felt sure given the financial means of Hann’s employer bail would have been posted regardless.
Public information officer Trooper David McGarvey of the Hollidaysburg substation had publicly stated that state police and investigating officers are not usually notified when a defendant posts bail. Notification programs are available, however, to victims of crime.
Pennsylvania’s Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) is one such system that provides both information and notification regarding the “custody status of offenders in Pennsylvania’s county jails and state correctional facilities.” Crime victims and the general public can register directly with Pennsylvania SAVIN for telephone notification by calling 866-972-7284. Registration for telephone and/or e-mail notification may be done at www.vinelink.com.
Additional information regarding SAVIN may be obtained by contacting Fulton County Victim Services located at 130 North Second Street, Mc- Connellsburg, or by calling 717- 485-5419. Users of SAVIN and related programs are reminded they should not depend solely on these services for their protection.
Trooper McGarvey concluded in regard to the ongoing case that investigators are still actively looking into how Hann acquired the shotgun used in the murder-suicide. Due to the active PFA and being a convicted felon, Hann was unable to possess a firearm. Charges could potentially be filed against the individual responsible for providing the shotgun used in the kidnapping as well as the murder-suicide.