MIDDLEBURG, Pa. — Two men acquitted of murder charges in this central Pennsylvania town rode in a local parade Thursday night, tossing candy from the cab of a pickup truck adorned with large signs trumpeting their not-guilty verdict.
In the truck were Chris Aucker and Robert L. Reich, two of the three defendants acquitted in May after a nine-day trial in the 1997 slaying of Donald Seebold III.
A third acquitted defendant, Ryan C. Sprenkel, was not in the parade.
Aucker, 39, said the 14 months he spent in jail waiting for his day in court have changed his life.
"It’s very difficult," said the married father of two. "I've been out three months now and I'm just trying to stay focused."
During Thursday's parade — an annual tradition attended by thousands of Middleburg and Valley residents — Aucker struck back in a big way, using two huge banners to reveal exactly where he places the blame for the trio's prosecution.
The 4-foot by 6-foot signs on his truck featured red lettering on a blue background and had pictures of Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch and Middleburg District Judge Lori Hackenberg heading into a garbage can.
Next to those images were pictures of the three defendants under large, red letters that read "NOT GUILTY."
"I thought about doing this the day after the verdict," Aucker said. "The media portrayed us all as bad guys, but we’re not and wanted everyone to know that."
Aucker said he heard some cheers as he drove in the parade, "and a few boos, too. But I'm 100 percent glad that I did this. I have absolutely no regrets."
Seebold was beaten to death at a birthday party 16 years ago. Prosecutors have said there would be no further investigation into his death.
Ashley M. Wislock and Rick Dandes are reporters for The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pa.