News

Patrick Derr had history of violence

Written by John Latimer and Les Steward/Lebanon Daily News | Sep 9, 2015 7:45 AM
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A sign expressing sympathy for the death of Stacey Pennington is taped to the window at Pennington's store in Cleona. (Michael K. Dakota -- Lebanon Daily News)

(Lebanon) -- Administrators at Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County were aware of the problems between murder victim Stacey Seldomridge Pennington and her assailant, Patrick Derr, because they helped her file a Protection From Abuse Order against him earlier this year.

"We did know about her through having the PFA," said DVI's Executive Director, Jennifer Snyder. "We have a legal advocate that we employ who works at the (Lebanon County) courthouse who does the filing and is responsible for the Protection From Abuse Orders.

The PFA was granted by Judge Charles T. Jones Jr. on Jan. 29, about a month after Derr was arrested on charges of simple assault and harassment.

Pennington told police that Derr, her live-in boyfriend at the time, pushed, slapped and struck her multiple times on December 26 last year at her South Lebanon Township home at 58 Eastfield Drive.

She said he had also choked her by placing his foot against her throat while she was on the ground, according to the criminal complaint that police filed in the case.

Pennington told police that she fled from her home to a neighbor's residence because she was afraid she was not going to be able to get away from Derr.

Derr told police he and Pennington had been arguing. Asked by police if the argument had become physical, he said "I don't think so," according to the police affidavit.

Derr pleaded guilty July 8 to the charges and was scheduled to be sentenced on today. Under terms of his plea agreement, he was to be given a time-served sentence, ordered to attend domestic violence and anger management classes, undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and have no contact with Pennington. He had served nearly two months in prison after his arrest on December 27.

But that will never happen.

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Officials remove a car from the scene of a shooting in Mt. Gretna on Monday. The car is the one believed stolen by Patrick Derr from his mother in Richland, which he then drove to Mt. Gretna before shooting Pennington and then himself. (Jeremy Long -- Lebanon Daily News)

Derr was on life support at Hershey Medical Center on Tuesday, according to Cornwall police, suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after stealing his mother's car, driving to Pennington's Mt. Gretna gift shop and shooting her to death outside the store as she prepared to open on Monday morning.

Details of the relationship between the 46-year-old Pennington and 47-year-old Derr are scant.

Friends said they had been together less than a year before his arrest, and it is likely that they've known each other since attending Elco High School together.

Derr graduated in 1986, when he played for the Raiders PIAA Championship soccer team. And Pennington, who then was known by classmates by her maiden name, Stacey Seldomridge, graduated a year later with the Class of '87.

Derr grew up in a two-story saltbox home on Race Street in Richland, where he was currently living, according to a change of address filed in connection with the criminal charges involving Pennington.

His father died in 2012, but his mother still lives in the home, which was deserted Monday afternoon.

Residents in the sleepy town of about 1,500 people in eastern Lebanon County were willing to talk about Derr but wished to stay anonymous.

Derr's work history is sketchy. According to people who knew him, he made his living as an over-the-road trucker before losing his license last year when he was arrested for driving under the influence. It occurred not far from his boyhood home.

State police stopped him after he ran a stop sign on North Race Street on March 1, 2014. Troopers said his blood-alcohol level was 0.197 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

He pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to serve 72 hours to six months in county prison.

One man, who said he grew up with Derr, said he was shocked by the murder but not that Derr was involved in violence, because he had a history of being short-tempered.

That claim is backed up by Derr's police record, which includes three PFAs dating to 1994 and a prior conviction for simple assault and harassment in 2008.

Three other women filed PFAs against Derr, who has been married at least twice, according to court records. Both marriages ended in divorce.

According to the latest PFA order filed against Derr, he was not required to turn over a firearm.

That was because Pennington was not aware that he owned one, Snyder said.

"If the victims are aware there are firearms, they will be taken by the sheriffs, who can go in and take them out of the home. The order itself states you are prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm during the duration of the order. But we all know in this day and age how easy it is to get something."

Cornwall Borough police Chief Bruce Harris said on Monday investigators were still trying to identify the weapon used by Derr and whether it was his or he obtained it from someone else.

A close acquaintance of Derr's family, who did not want to be identified, said Derr's late father was an avid hunter and was known to possess firearms.

"They definitely would have been available to him," said the childhood friend of Derr's.

It is possible that Derr picked up a gun at his mother's house sometime Monday morning, before he stole her car.

According Cornwall police, Linda Derr reported her 2012 Ford Focus stolen to state police, and it was found near the shooting, where it was impounded.

While her PFA failed to protect Pennington from Derr's rage, Snyder believes they are useful tools in helping to protect victims of domestic violence by giving them the authority to contact police when they feel threatened. If the violation is deemed serious enough, it can even lead to incarceration.

In the last year, according to DVI's records, 550 individuals filed for Protection From Abuse Orders in Lebanon County, Snyder said. Of those, 293 were granted temporary orders until they went to a full hearing before a judge, when eventually 122 final PFA orders were granted.

"Technically it's just a piece of paper," Snyder said. "But it's a piece of paper that gives you the power to contact police. In this situation, I don't know what happened. I don't know if she (Pennington) had that chance."

Pennington's PFA was set to expire on Jan. 29, 2018.

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Derr's criminal record includes the following:

• A Jonestown-area women sought a PFA against Derr, and a temporary restraining order was issued in March 1994. The petition was dismissed, but the woman refiled for another PFA. A final order was granted by then Senior Judge G. Thomas Gates in July of that year.

• A Millcreek Township woman filed for a PFA against Derr in 2000 and was granted a final PFA order in July of that year. In that case, Derr was accused of threatening to kill the women and burn down her home.

• On Feb. 28, 2008, Derr was charged after a woman he had been living with showed up at the Good Samaritan Hospital with bruising to various parts of her body. She told police that she suffered the injuries on Feb. 24, 2008.

She filed for and was granted a final PFA order by Judge Samuel A. Kline in March 2008.

Derr was charged with attempted rape, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, simple assault and false imprisonment in connection with that incident.

He was found guilty of simple assault and harassment at a September 3, 2008, trial.  He was cleared of the other charges. Derr was sentenced to one to 12 months in county prison.

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF.

 

 

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