Investigation Discovery is exploring the brutal murder of 13-year-old Greg Witman in his home in New Freedom, Pennslyvania, in 1998.
Greg’s 15-year-old brother Zach Witman was eventually charged with the crime and was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The case subsequently became a debating point as to whether the justice system should imprison minors for life.
The Witman family has long maintained that Zach was innocent of the murder. However, in 2018, Zach did plead guilty to third-degree murder after his original first-degree murder conviction was ruled unconstitutional. He was released a year later.
The official version of events states that on October 2, 1998, Greg came home from school and confronted his brother because he was angered that Zach had hung up the phone on his girlfriend. Zach became so angry with Greg that he grabbed a knife and gloves and attacked him in the foyer of their home.
The police believe that Zach chased his brother into a laundry room where he stabbed and slashed him 60 times, nearly decapitating him. Zach then dialed 911 and told the operator he’d just found Greg lying in a pool of blood.
Zach Witman was the cops’ only suspect
He then buried the knife and gloves in the backyard under a tree, where investigators later found them. The investigation focused on Zach, and he was placed under house arrest for five years until he was convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison.
Zach and the family bitterly fought this decision with various appeals for 20 years. In 2012 they finally got a break when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole.
This lead to a retrial and a plea agreement, which allowed Zach to plead guilty to third-degree murder, an option that should have been available to him in 2003 but was denied. He accepted the deal and was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years and 230 days in prison, and a maximum of 40 years in prison.
In May 2019, 36-year-old Zach was released after a parole board cited his good behavior and participation in an institutional program. His lawyer says he was a model prisoner and will be a model citizen. His family still maintains his innocence.
More from Investigation Discovery
Follow the links to read about more horrific crimes profiled on ID.
Greg Cook murdered and dismembered Shannon McKillop; he left her hand floating in a pond and her head in a bag in rural Oregon. He went on to kill two other people before fleeing the state.
Gregory Agnew was suspected of killing girlfriend Tammy Niver in 1993; however, there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction. Then in 2018, he killed his wife Marta Agnew as they began divorce proceedings.
The Witmans airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.
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