In 2002, Sarah Jo Pender of Indiana was convicted of double murder in the shotgun killings of Tricia Nordman and Andrew Cataldi in 2000; the victims were Pender’s roommates along with her boyfriend, Richard Hull. According to USA Today, Nordman and Cataldi were Nevada fugitives who were dealing in drugs along with Hull. Pender has maintained her innocence, claiming that while she assisted him by purchasing a shotgun and helping Hull cover up the crime, she did not commit the murders.
Pender met Hull when she was 21 years old at a concert; the two began sharing a home with Cataldi and Nordman. On October 24 of 2000, Pender claims that she left the house when her boyfriend and Cataldi became involved in an argument concerning drugs and cash. When she came back later that day, she claims the home was dark and “blood soaked.” Hull had allegedly gunned down Nordman and Cataldi using a 12-gauge shotgun Pender had bought at Walmart earlier that same day. Pender said in an interview that she had no choice but to help Hull get rid of the bodies, which were dumped in a trash bin a few blocks from their home. Otherwise, she said, she would have become his third victim.
There was no solid physical evidence tying Pender to the murders, however prosecutors and police believed that she used her sex appeal and intelligence to pull the strings, calling her a master manipulator before the jury. In 2013, the prosecutor in Pender’s case, Larry Sells who is now retired, said that evidence had been discovered that raises doubt about Pender’s conviction. Pender was sentenced to 110 years in prison for the murders, while former boyfriend Hull was sentenced to 90 years.
Pender appealed her conviction last year based on the newly discovered evidence found by Sells, a “snitch list” that at the time of the original trial Sells and Pender’s defense attorney were unaware of. Sells believes now that he won the defendant’s conviction in 2000 on the basis of what he called “dubious testimony.” The Indiana Court of Appeals judges were not swayed by Sells’ findings, and upheld Pender’s conviction.
Ultimately, Pender freely admits that she did help Hull by purchasing the shotgun and helping him dispose of the body; however, the maximum sentence for the crime she feels she committed would have been served long ago.
Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know that winning is not easy, as is clear in this Indiana case. It hardly seems justice that Pender is serving 110 years for assisting Hull, when he is serving 90 years. Should Pender spend the remainder of her life locked behind bars? Apparently the Indiana Court of Appeals thinks so.
It is vital that anyone unfairly convicted of a crime consult with a skilled and capable attorney when considering an appeal. In Michigan, the appeals process is highly complex and requires the knowledge and expertise of a capable lawyer with extensive experience in this area of the law. If you have been wrongly convicted or feel that mistakes were made in the criminal justice process, contact a talented Michigan criminal appeals lawyer immediately.