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Guilty verdict Jury says Keith Reber is responsible for death of man, whom he had tied to a tree

Published June 28. 2013 05:05PM

A jury decided that Keith Allen Reber, 49, Schuylkill Haven, played a major part in causing the death of Bryan R. Smith, 26, of Orwigsburg, whom he tied to a tree and left tied for 20 hours, only to be found dead.

It returned a verdict Thursday night finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and kidnapping after more than five hours of deliberation in Schuylkill County court.

Reber was also found guilty of criminal conspiracy, recklessly endangering another person, and tampering with physical evidence.

He was found not guilty of the more serious charges of murder in the first, second or third degrees, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, and two counts of simple assault.

Before the jury retired to begin deliberation, Judge Charles M. Miller dismissed the charges of a person not to possess a firearm and possession of a firearm with altered numbers of the manufacturer of the weapon for lack of evidence.

Miller deferred sentencing to Thursday, Aug. 1, and ordered a pre-sentence investigative report prepared by the adult probation department.

Reber, who has been incarcerated in the county prison since his arrest for lack of bail, was returned to the prison to await sentencing. The manslaughter and kidnapping charges are serious offenses and he probably will get a state prison sentence.

Reber sat stone-faced when the verdict was read as he probably anticipated the worse scenario happening to him because after the jury retired in mid-afternoon to begin deliberating, it returned to the courtroom two hours later with questions for the court.

The jurors wanted to hear again the judge's explanation on what evidence they could find him guilty of murder in the third degree, involuntary manslaughter, and kidnapping.

As Miller was checking his file, Reber, seated at the counsel table, bowed his head and burst into one or two loud sobs, which could be heard by the jury. He apparently sensed that a verdict against him was going to brought in by the jury.

Up to this point he had high hopes of maybe being acquitted as he testified that it was the victim's choice to be tied up from three options he was given by Reber and Daniel William Dull, 25, of Orwigsburg, who faces trial on the same charges as Reber at a later date.

Reber testified that Dull wanted to beat Smith for ransacking Reber's girlfriend's home in Schuylkill Haven, but Reber said he leaned toward having Smith arrested or other punishment. He came up with the idea of tying Smith to a tree to teach him a lesson. He insisted throughout his testimony that he had no intention of killing or hurting Smith.

The testimony was on May 28, 2012, Dull and Smith got into Reber's car and drove to his home where Reber obtained the ropes, ties, and a flashlight and the trio marched into a heavily wooded area behind Reber's home.

At this point Reber bound Smith to a tree with his hands behind his back around the tree and left him. This was around 3 a.m. He visited him twice during the day, but when he went to the scene the third time around 10 p.m., he found him dead.

This was a tough case for the jury because the death certificate read that Smith's death was caused by a large amount of drugs in his body, but a contributing aspect to his death was being tied up for such a length of time. Reber admitted in his testimony it was a stupid action on his part.

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