Chruby case continues with second appeal

The gears of justice continue to grind in the case of Walter Chruby.

Chruby, 53, was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997 for the 1995 stabbing death of W. Ruth Fergus. Since his conviction, he has continued to appeal to the courts with continuing litigation through today.

Chruby was 33 when he was accused of stabbing Fergus, 73, in her College Heights home during the 1995 Labor Day weekend. She was found dead in her home on Sept. 4, the apparent victim of a robbery.

Chruby, a former dog trainer and College Township resident, was questioned about the death about a week later. He was serving five years on probation for a felony theft charge and had once met Fergus at a dinner party to raise money for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. He was also friends with her son.

Chruby fit witnesses’ descriptions of a man seen using Fergus’ credit cards and, later, throwing a bag of bloody clothes into a gas station dumpster. Police also learned Chruby stayed at a motel near Fergus’ neighborhood during Labor Day weekend, and that he had telephoned her home from there.

He was arrested when he arrived in Harrisburg for an appointment. Police found Fergus’ car and credit card in a nearby parking garage.

Chruby’s trial wouldn’t begin until June 1997. When the dust cleared, he was found guilty of first-degree murder June 27 with additional convictions on robbery, burglary, theft, criminal trespassing and credit card violations.

Former District Attorney Ray Gricar sought the death penalty, but he was sentenced to life in prison. Chruby sought state and federal appeals to his conviction in 1999 and was denied each time.

Ongoing litigation has kept Chruby’s name floating around the Centre County Courthouse since his conviction, most recently in status conference held Tuesday between District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and attorney Robert McGlaughlin. According to Parks Miller, Chruby sought a second post conviction relief order, which is making its way through the state Superior Court.

According to court documents, Chruby filed the second PCRA in February 2015. Seeking a second PCRA is rare, Parks Miller said, and was denied by the Centre County court in January.

Chruby pushed the appeal to the Superior Court, where it now sits, she said. A status conference was ordered Dec. 12 concerning the court’s need for additional information on motions related to his appeal.

“They asked for some things they felt weren’t answered,” Parks Miller said, “so it was sent down for an evidentiary hearing.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews