Judge Rejects Plea in Case Involving Death of Four Year Old

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

POTTSVILLE -- Confusion over how much time Phillip Moeller would spend in jail caused a judge in Schuylkill County to throw out a plea Wednesday in the courthouse in Pottsville.

Phillip Moeller of Fountain Springs pleaded no contest about a month ago to charges relating to the death of his then-girlfriend's grandson.

 Walking into the Schuylkill County Courthouse, Moeller had nothing to say about the charges against him.

"No comment at this time thank you," he told Newswatch16.

Four-year-old Tanner Geiger died in 2013. According to court paperwork, Moeller had been roughhousing with him inside a home on Carrie Street in Ashland.

Moeller initially told investigators that the boy hit his head on the foot board of the bed. But, he later told police he was frustrated and upset with tanner and did "something he regretted doing."

Moeller was not charged until nearly two years later. Last month, he pleaded no contest to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. But Moeller did not admit guilt for the boy's death, and the judge questioned the proposed sentencing guidelines. Eventually, the defense withdrew the plea.

Essentially, the four-year-old's family was looking for as harsh a sentence as possible. The maximum sentence for this kind of involuntary manslaughter charge is 5 to 10 years. But with the way sentencing guidelines in Pennsylvania work, the paperwork insinuated that Moeller could possibly be released after just about a year.

"It's torn me up upside down, inside out," said Stephanie Bowers, Tanner's grandmother. "I have nightmares, all kinds of issues going on. I just want it to be done and over."

"It's very stressful because I suffer from depression, anxiety disorder and PTSD due to him," said Lori Moeller, Phillip's sister. She believes her brother needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

There is no date set for Phillip Moeller's next court appearance. It's possible the two sides could work out a new plea deal, but the assistant district attorney tells Newswatch16 they are preparing for trial, which could come as early as April.