Man convicted in Shamokin officer's death dies in prison
BELLEFONTE - Convicted cop killer Preston Pfeifly died Saturday at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. He was 63.
Pfeifly was convicted Oct. 4, 1984, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Shamokin Police Cpl. David Witmer Nov. 13, 1983. Witmer is the only police officer to have died in the line of duty in city history.
Thirty-three at the time of the shooting, Pfeifly was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He started his sentence Oct. 5, 1984.
Prison Public Information Officer Jeffrey Rackovan said it is state prison policy not to disclose the details of an inmate's death. However, for any death, state police at Rockview and the Centre County coroner's office are called to investigate and determine a cause of death, Rackovan said.
Coroner Scott Sayers and Trooper Brian 0. Wakefield, the investigating officer, could not be reached Wednesday for further information.
When contacted about the death Wednesday afternoon, Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini, who was first assistant DA at the time of Pfeifly's trial, said, "This has been a long saga with Mr. Pfeifly filing several appeals to his conviction, claiming he was intoxicated at the time of the shooting. I'm glad the legal trail is over. Mr. Pfeifly will have to answer to his maker."
Rosini said Witmer was a good friend of his since high school and was a very good policeman.
Pfeifly, of Trevorton, fired a single gunshot that struck Witmer in the neck. Pfeifly was a self-employed truck driver residing on 11th Street who went on a jealous rampage following a drinking spree and set fire to a garage in the 1200 block of Susquehanna Street. Witmer responded from Shamokin as backup for Zerbe Township police.
After shooting and killing Witmer with a bullet fired from a deer rifle, Pfeifly attempted to escape in his tractor-trailer, but was captured at gunpoint by Shamokin Patrolman Joseph Treese.
Witmer, a nine-year veteran of the Shamokin police force, is remembered with an engraved monument at Independence and Sixth streets in the city. A wreath is placed at the monument during the Shamokin-Coal Township veterans parade each Memorial Day.
A special memorial ceremony paying tribute to Witmer was conducted on the 25th anniversary of the shooting in 2008. The 30th anniversary is Nov. 13.