A Philadelphia-area man has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a third-degree murder charge in the shotgun slaying of a teenage neighbor at a rural school bus stop almost three decades ago.
Stefan Szczesniuk, 60, also pleaded guilty Tuesday in Chester County Court to possession of an instrument of crime in the 1986 death of 15-year-old Raymond Yoder Jr., who authorities said was killed as he waited for a school bus in West Caln Township.
Szczesniuk was arrested soon afterward but spent much of the next quarter-century in the state mental hospital. A judge last fall declared him competent to stand trial, and Szczesniuk himself said he wanted to stand trial and be done with the case.
The defendant, who declined to address the victim's relatives, was sentenced to time served plus 12 years of probation. Annual evaluations determine whether he still needs to be hospitalized, the next one scheduled for next month.
"He is under psychiatric care at this time, and there is no indication that is going to be changing anytime soon," Judge Anne Marie Wheatcraft said in accepting the plea and ordering continued treatment for his illness.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco noted that the maximum term for third-degree murder was only 20 years at the time of the slaying.
"It is a fair verdict under the circumstances," Ost-Prisco said. "The Yoders finally have some peace after 28 years of waiting. There has never been an issue her that the defendant committed the crime. It has always been an issue of his psychological condition."
The victim's older sister, Nancy Yoder, told the judge that the murder had changed all of their lives.
"Now all we have are the memories, and we miss him every day," she said.