PA Bill Number: HB1590
Title: In sentencing, further providing for sentencing generally.
Description: In sentencing, further providing for sentencing generally. ...
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Last Action Date: Jun 15, 2021
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Pennsylvania Self-Defense: Shooting victim stopped accused killer's suicide attempt :: 07/14/2020
Heather Sue Campbell saved the life of her accused killer, Christopher T. Fernanders, one year ago, according to court documents.
The documents reveal the tumultuous relationship between the former husband and wife that ended with Fernanders, 55, of Paxinos, allegedly stalking and shooting to death Campbell, 46, of Trevorton, and her friend, Matthew Bowersox, 52, of Mifflinburg, moments after they were seen hugging outside a Hummels Wharf restaurant in Monroe Marketplace.
Fernanders and Campbell, who have two children ages 9 and 15, were talking of divorce on June 10, 2019, and agreed to live together until the papers were filed when a distraught Fernanders tried to take his own life by inhaling carbon monoxide through a hose attached to his car exhaust. Campbell intervened and saved him by removing the hose, according to a protection from abuse (PFA) application she filed on Aug. 8, 2019.
During the incident, according to court records, Fernanders also brandished a gun and aimed it at his head while Campbell called 911.
"I don't have to do it here," Fernanders said as he drove away before returning to the home where he was confronted at gunpoint by police. A suicide note was found in his truck, court records said.
Campbell said their children were in the home during the dispute.
A temporary PFA against Fernanders was issued and on Aug. 21, 2019, Campbell withdrew it.
Less than one week later she filed for divorce and it was granted on Jan. 15.
They had been together for several years before getting married in North Carolina on April 2, 2016.
In court records, Campbell described their relationship as abusive even before they discussed ending their marriage.
"He chased me down the stairs at our home in Charlotte, N.C., and said he was going to end it now for me," she said in a June 22 court filing for another PFA, one day after Fernanders threatened to kill her at her home in the presence of their children during an argument.
Campbell wrote in the court filing last month, "I admitted I just started speaking to someone."
Fernanders responded by calling Campbell a vulgar name and poking his finger into her chest several times. "I told you before what I was going to do to you if I saw you out with anyone. I will kill you," Fernanders allegedly told her.
"I know you are seeing someone," he said, repeating the threat several times, court documents said.
Campbell asked Fernanders how he knew she was seeing someone. She informed the court that her former husband owned a 9 mm handgun and built an AR-15, the PFA application said.
The late-night incident led state police at Stonington to charge Fernanders with terroristic threats and harassment. He appeared in the early morning hours of June 22 before District Judge John Gembic and was released without bail and ordered to have no contact with Campbell.
That same day Campbell applied for another PFA. Gembic said on Monday that when Fernanders appeared in his court no one informed him there was a previous PFA or that he had weapons.
On June 25, a Northumberland County sheriff deputy served Fernanders with the PFA and court order to relinquish his weapons, court records said.
A temporary PFA order was in effect against Fernanders when he allegedly gunned down Campbell and Bowersox shortly after they were seen embracing in the restaurant parking lot. A hearing for a permanent PFA was scheduled for this week in Northumberland County Court.
State police investigating the double homicide said Fernanders had placed a GPS tracker on Campbell's vehicle without her knowledge and there was evidence that he had built a firearm similar to the one used in the fatal shootings.
After killing the pair, Fernanders was walking back to his truck and was shot and wounded by a restaurant patron, Troy Sprenkle, 49, of Sunbury, who police say had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch said Fernanders had intended to end his life, according to a letter found in his vehicle that also detailed his plan to murder Campbell.
Piecuch said Fernanders remains in serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.