Not Guilty Verdicts In Snyder County Cold Case

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MIDDLEBURG -- A jury in Snyder County found three men not guilty of a deadly beating more than 15 years ago.

Ryan Sprenkel, Christopher Aucker and Robert Reich were accused of killing Donald Seebold in 1997. They spent the past 14 months in jail.

"I feel great right now.  We're very grateful to the jury, they did the right thing.  We appreciate their hard work," said defendant Robert Reich.

The three were on trial for allegedly beating Donald Seebold, 21, to death in 1997 at a party.  They were arrested last year and charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy and perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury.

Now, they get their first taste of freedom after the not guilty verdict.

"Yeah, it's nice, emotional, I mean, this is the first time in a long time," said defendant Ryan Sprenkel. "I'm excited."

"I've never had a doubt all along that they weren't involved in this homicide.  I think the jury made the right decision.  Based on the evidence they were given, I think they did a great job and did what they should have," said Aucker's attorney Michael Rudinski.

Some members of the seebold family cried after the verdict was read.  One Seebold supporter told the defendants, "you are all murderers, all of you".

When asked if prosecutors will investigate anyone else for Donald Seebold's murder, district attorney Michael Piecuch said, "The Seebold murder has been solved.  I respect the jury's verdict, but this case is closed."

Prosecutors called the case a conspiracy of silence, because they said witnesses originally told police nothing happened at the party. But in 2005, a witness came forward, accusing Sprenkel, Aucker and Reich.

Two other people were charged in connection with this case.  Sheila Aucker and Linda Thomas are charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury.  District attorney Mike Piecuch says those charges will be dropped.