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Court: Sentence upheld in death of man tied to tree in Schuylkill

Published July 25. 2014 11:15AM

The state Superior Court has upheld the sentence of a Schuylkill County man convicted in the death of a man left tied to a tree in the woods in May 2012.

Keith Allen Reber, 50, of Schuylkill Haven, must serve his sentence of 14 to 28 years in state prison for his actions in the death of Bryan Smith, 26, of Orwigsburg.

A jury on June 27, 2013, found Reber guilty of involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, recklessly endangering another person and tampering with physical evidence. On Aug. 23, 2013, Judge Charles Miller sentenced Reber to 14 to 28 years in prison.

Reber had appealed the sentence on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to charge him with kidnapping, that the jury was biased because of pretrial publicity, that gruesome and inflammatory autopsy photos were shown to the jury, and a medical expert's opinion on Smith's death was "speculative."

The Superior Court found all four arguments invalid.

According to the 18-page Superior Court ruling, Reber and another man, William Dull, on May 27 took Smith to Reber's campsite in the woods in North Manheim township after they caught him in Reber's girlfriend's house. Smith allegedly agreed to be tied to a tree at the site instead of being turned over to police.

Reber told Smith to stand against the tree with his hands behind his back. Reber then handcuffed Smith's hands around the tree, put cuffs around his feet and put a rag in his mouth. Reber had a gun with him, but said he never threatened Smith with it.

At about 4 a.m. May 28, Reber and Dull went back to Reber's girlfriend's house. At 8 a.m., Reber returned to Smith and found he had spit out the gag. Reber put the rag back in Smith's mouth and left.

Reber went back at about noon to offer Smith water, but said the man was "cocky," and so he left him there. He came back at about 5 p.m., and found Smith leaning to the side rather than sitting straight up. Reber removed the ankle cuffs to make him more comfortable, then left.

When he returned at 11 p.m., Smith was dead. he removed the gag and handcuffs, then took the cuffs and Smith's wallet home and burned them. At 3:30 a.m. May 29, Reber went to the Schuylkill Haven police department and told them what had happened.

Reber told authorities he never meant to kill Smith.

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