LOCK HAVEN — “We’re here today because you can’t control your temper,” Clinton County Judge Michael F. Salisbury told a Renovo man who had admitted killing his wife on Easter Sunday in 2015.
The judge Friday then sentenced William J. Snyder to 20 years, 1 month to 42 years in prison. He fined him $5,000.
The 20 to 40 years he imposed on the third-degree murder charge was the maximum. Snyder, 36, received a consecutive 1 month to 2 years on an abuse of corpse charge.
The plea agreement would have allowed Salisbury to sentence him to as little as six years on the murder charge
He had pleaded guilty in December to those counts and charges of tampering with evidence and making unsworn statements to law enforcement for which he received concurrent terms of probation.
“I know a price has to be paid and I accept that,” Snyder said prior to being sentenced.
He admitted killing his wife Kelly Jo on April 5, 2015, putting her body in the basement in a sleeping bag and later deposing of it in Halls Run State Park next to a stream.
Her body was found following an extensive search on April 11, 2015. An autopsy determined she had been strangled.
To cover up the crime, Snyder reported her missing, prepared a $60,000 ransom note and went on television pleading for her safe return.
He told police he last had seen his wife when she left their home in the 200 block of Fourth Street about 5:45 p.m. April 5, 2015.
He claimed she took only a small wallet, bank card and money to walk a few blocks to a store to get sweet potatoes for Easter dinner. Store surveillance did not show her being in the store.
“I never met for this to happen,” said Snyder, who kept his head bowed during most of the 90-minute court proceeding.
“I never thought in a million years I would be sitting in court today,” the Renovo native and Army veteran told the judge.
He blamed his conduct on post-traumatic stress disorder caused by being wounded by a mortar while deployed in Iraq. He suffers flashbacks and nightmares, he said.
He also acknowledged he has an anger management problem for which he has received counseling.
For the first time Snyder gave his version of what happened about 5:45 p.m. on April 5, 2015.
He said they argued, she threw a bottle of hair spray by his head, she punched him in the chest, they grappled and they fell to the floor with him straddling her and his hands around her neck.
“I had complete loss sense at that time,” he told the judge. Several moments later when realized what happened his wife was not breathing, he said.
“I tried covering it up,” he said, admitting he gave false information to police. “I did not know what to do,” he said.
“I should have instantly called 911. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t. One lie turned into another lie I didn’t know how to get out.”
Snyder claimed it was relief to finally tell police the truth to police after he was arrested in a Horseheads, N.Y., motel that April 9.
Salisbury said he would not accept PTSD as an excuse because Snyder was offered tools to address it but did not accept them.
Had he lost his senses as claimed, he would have done something to help his wife when he regained them, the judge said.
Snyder claimed the day he killed his wife was their first physical altercation.
He apologized to his wife’s family and to those who wasted their time and put their lives in jeopardy looking for her.
Deputy Attorney General Michele L. Kluk asked for the maximum sentence, arguing there is no defense that can justify what Snyder did.
She pointed out he initially attributed the death to a drug overdose, then abandoned the children and fled to Horseheads.
Kelly Joe was mother of three children. Snyder had adopted her oldest, Ty, now 15. The other two children are Ethan, 10, and Eden, 5.
Kelly Jo’s sister, TT Bixler, called Snyder a monster and asked the judge not to show any compassion. She read a statement from Ty in which he said “my life was forever changed.”
Kelley Varner, the murdered woman’s mother, fought back tears as she described the emotional, physical, fiscal and psychological impact the death has had on the family.
“Our lives will never be the same,” she said, “Our hearts are broken,”
“I think he should get what she got – death,” said Kelly Jo’s father, John Wertz. The judge cut him off when his comments toward Snyder became threatening.
Defense attorney David Lindsay said his client’s actions shocked everyone who knew him.