Alleged Molester Accused Of Killing Family Set To Go On Trial
Victoria and Elizabeth Wholaver were less than a month away from
testifying against their father on sexual abuse charges when police found
them and their mother, Jean, dead on Christmas Day two years ago.
Victoria, 20, and Elizabeth, 15, had obtained a no-contact order against their father,
Ernest R. Wholaver Jr., after accusing him of having molested them for years.
For added safety, the family also changed the locks.
But in the middle of the night, prosecutors say,
Wholaver entered their home and shot each one in the head.
Only Victoria's 9-month-old daughter, Madison, survived the shootings.
The infant was found next to her mother's body, crying but unharmed.
Wholaver was to stand trial starting Monday in Harrisburg on three counts
of murder, multiple sexual assault charges and one count of trying to hire a
hit man from behind bars to frame someone else for the killings.
The capital-murder trial is expected to last at least two weeks.
Lead prosecutor Fran Chardo said Wholaver's motive was to prevent his
trial on the sexual assault and related charges.
"He killed the only witnesses against him," Chardo said.
A key witness is expected to be Wholaver's brother Scott, 30,
who has already admitted driving Wholaver from his home near
Altoona to the murder scene in Middletown. Scott Wholaver's plea to
three counts of third-degree murder could result in him serving as much
as 25 years.
Inmates who claim Ernest Wholaver admitted to the killings also
may testify, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Spero T. Lappas declined to
discuss the thrust of his arguments.
"The prosecution obviously will not be able to prove that Ernie
Wholaver is guilty of these charges, because he is not guilty of these
charges," he said.
Lappas succeeded in getting Ernest Wholaver's statements to Scott
Wholaver kept out of the trial, but the brother may still describe how,
after a night of drinking at a bar in Hastings, they drove together in the
dead of night about 110 miles to the murder scene.
Scott Wholaver has said he believed his brother wanted only
to retrieve his dog.
At a preliminary hearing in February 2003, Scott Wholaver testified
that his brother wore dark clothing, a mask and two pairs of gloves
the night of the shootings. They parked about a block away, and Scott
Wholaver testified that when Ernest returned to the Chevy Tahoe truck
about five or 10 minutes later, he was "shaking, nervous."
Scott also led police to the alleged murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver
that had been discarded in the woods of Clearfield County.
Ernest Wholaver allegedly approached a fellow inmate last year with a plan to
contract with a motorcycle-gang member in West Virginia to kill Victoria's
ex-boyfriend and make his death appear to be a suicide — complete with a
note implicating himself in the women's deaths. An undercover drug agent
posed as the hit man.
Wholaver was charged in May 2003 with criminal solicitation.
The jury was picked in Northampton County because of
pretrial publicity, and will be sequestered in Harrisburg for the
duration of the trial.