2012-05-24 / Local & State

Woman Seeks Appeal In 1997 Pa. Girl’s Slaying

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – A woman serving life in prison without the possibility of parole in the beating death of a 4-year-old girl 15 years ago is asking a judge to restore her appeal rights so she can seek a new trial.

A hearing was held Friday in Blair County Court on the request by Rowlanda Lea Kenney, 45, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1997 death of Ashley Decker, the daughter of her live-in boyfriend, The Altoona Mirror reported.

Under the law, any appeal should have been filed by 2002. Kenney has said she was told that the county had appointed an attorney to represent her, but that attorney has said he was never told of the appointment. A man who said he has been Kenney’s spiritual adviser during her time in Blair County prison through her present incarceration at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy said he tried to contact the attorney on her behalf but never received a reply.

Prosecutors argued at the videoconference hearing that Kenney knew there were deadlines she had to meet for appeals and that she failed to meet them. They argued that since she waited until eight years after the deadline, her petition for further review of her case should be dismissed.

Kenney maintains that the child died in an accident caused by her boyfriend, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She viewed Friday's proceedings but spoke little during the hearing.

Judge Hiram Carpenter, in acknowledging that an attorney had been appointed but nothing was ever filed, called it “a serious issue” and gave attorneys 30 days to file briefs.

Ashley’s death led to changes in Pennsylvania law mandating cooperation between police and child welfare agencies in child abuse investigations.

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