A key witness in Johnathan Maines murder case remains incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail to ensure her appearance at trial.
Maines, 20, of Madera is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person for the stabbing death of Joshua Allen Sahm, 30, of Blandburg, Cambria County, at a residence in Madera, Bigler Township.
Ashley L. Storm, 25, of Madera, is a key witness in the case and she has been incarcerated without being charged since last spring, according to her attorney, Matthew Swisher of the Public Defender’s Office. Swisher made a motion to have her released, arguing that this is too long for her to be incarcerated, especially since she hasn’t committed any crime.
Swisher said he couldn’t find any state case law on the matter, but he said federal law restricts the incarceration of material witnesses to 180 days. If it is going to be longer than this, accommodations should be made for the witness, such as having a sworn deposition or having the witness testify under oath and have it recorded on video.
Swisher said the court should make an accommodation for Storm like releasing her on supervised bail and outfitting her with a GPS tracking device to ensure her appearance at trial.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. said unlike federal law, Pennsylvania rules prohibit these kinds of testimony at a criminal trial. Shaw noted the commonwealth went out of its way to accommodate Storm and even found a place for her to live, but she was uncooperative and said she was moving to Florida. Shaw said the commonwealth had no choice but to incarcerate her.
Shaw said Maines’ trial is scheduled for Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 in front of Judge Paul Cherry.
“This is a murder one case and she is an essential witness,” Shaw said. “Without her, the commonwealth has no case.”
Swisher said he isn’t arguing against the legality of Storm’s incarceration, but only the length of it. He said if the trial is delayed for any reason, Storm will have to sit in jail and put her life on hold for even longer.
Ammerman said because Storm has not been charged, she doesn’t fall under PA Rule 600, so there is no time limit for which the commonwealth can hold Storm.
Ammerman suggested Swisher file an appeal with the Superior Court.
Maines is accused of stabbing Sahm on March 20 at a residence at 2964 Main St., Apt. 2, in Madera, Bigler Township. Sahm died during transport to UPMC Altoona. The autopsy report concluded Sahm suffered two fatal stab wounds — one to the left side of his neck and the other to his back.
According to the state police, Storm, Sahm, Maines and another male witness were present in the apartment at the time of the murder.
The state police interviewed the witnesses and said all four of were using methamphetamine heavily throughout the evening and into the morning.
Storm was upstairs in her bedroom with Sahm and Maines and the third male was downstairs. Storm said she left the bedroom to use the bathroom when she then heard a painful cry and someone say, “So what, you going to kill me?”
She left the bathroom and saw Sahm and Maines standing in the hallway outside of the bedroom and Sahm had been stabbed with a knife.
Maines then pushed her down the hallway and toward the back steps of the residence.
The third male said he heard some screams upstairs and went over to the stairs and saw Maines and Sahm exit the bedroom. He said Sahm had been stabbed and he fell onto the wall. Maines then pushed his Storm down the hallway and down the back steps.
The three of them met outside but Storm went back inside and saw the Sahm lying on the floor. She retrieved Sahm’s phone from the bedroom and called 911. She waited for authorities at a used car dealership/garage located across the street.
Maines and the other male fled the scene.
After the stabbing, Maines was picked up in Madera by his sister, who took Maines to another sister’s residence in the Shawville area where Maines was apprehended.
Maines remains incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail without bail.