At a hearing Monday afternoon, the Delaware County District Attorney’s office moved to rescind a warrant for a 1992 retail theft charge that was keeping David Sheppard in custody. Sheppard has been in custody in Pennsylvania for 27 years.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed off on Sheppard’s clemency last week for his role in a fatal robbery where he was not the shooter. But Sheppard was being held due to the warrant for the nearly 30-year-old theft charge of approximately five pairs of jeans.
In response to being held because of the Delaware County detainer, Sheppard’s attorney, assistant public defender Max Orenstein, filed an emergency petition calling for the warrant to be lifted and bail set.
Sheppard will be released on his own recognizance, meaning he will not have to pay a bail amount, according to Orenstein.
“He should’ve been going home sooner, but I’m glad he’s going home now,” Orenstein told Oxygen.com. “I’m very relieved that he’ll hopefully be able to spend the holidays with his family and start moving forward with his life.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDevitt told Oxygen.com that “this was never a custody case” or about keeping Sheppard in jail longer. He added that their office first learned of Sheppard's whereabouts in October 2019 and they were doing their "due diligence" with the case.
McDevitt said Monday’s hearing presented the first available opportunity to respond to the petition of Sheppard’s attorneys, and he moved to rescind the warrant at the hearing.
Sheppard was convicted of second-degree murder for his role in the 1992 fatal shooting of pharmacist Thomas Brannan and sentenced to life in prison. The current District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland joined the victim’s daughters, Evelyn Brannan Tarpey and Patricia Brannan O’Neil, outside of the courthouse following the hearing.
Tarpey said their family was not notified about Sheppard’s commutation until the Delaware District Attorney’s office reached out to them.
“[The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office] were the only people that notified us of David Sheppard’s commutation,” Tarpey said. “We were not given a chance to speak to the board of pardons. We received no notification. We recognize that we were blindsided and feel quite disrespected.”
Tarpey called for reform for the victim notification process within the criminal justice system, adding that it would have been easy to contact her as she’s lived in the same house with the same phone number for decades.
“I urge everyone who has been a victim in the state of Pennsylvania to make certain that they have registered with the victim’s advocates office,” Tarpey said. “We do not want what happened to us, being blindsided and disrespected to happen to any other family.”
District Attorney Copeland said she invited Lt. Governor John Fetterman to sit down with Brannan’s daughters to discuss what they view are flaws within the system.
Fetterman said he expressed his condolences to the family and also addressed the D.A.’s office using the decades-old theft charge. “I think it was a misuse of their discretion quite frankly…,” Fetterman told reporters.
Following the news of the retail theft charge detaining Sheppard, Fetterman pointed out in a tweet Copeland was voted out of office last November.
Sheppard’s story will be featured in an upcoming Oxygen documentary with Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted about Sheppard being held in custody on the retail theft charge. “This is sheer abuse of prosecutorial authority on the part of the district attorney’s office and a shameful waste of public resources,” tweeted Kardashian West.
According to Sheppard’s attorney, he will be released as early as this week. He will live for one year at a community corrections center, commonly called a halfway house, as part of the terms of his clemency agreement.
Family members, including his children, were present at the hearing. Sheppard’s brother Ron and sister-in-law Debbie Sheppard told Oxygen.com David will already have a job working with them once he is released.
They say Sheppard was never written up during his time in prison and pointed out that he mentored others while pursuing his education. "He did a lot of positive things while he was in there,” Ron Sheppard said. “If anyone deserves a chance to come home it’s him…”
Sheppard will be featured in “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project” on Oxygen.
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