Murder suspect says voices in head made him act VanMetre faces rape, murder charges in two states

June 14, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

GETTSBURG, PA. — GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- If it weren't for the voices inside his head, urging him to go "somewhere in the wrong direction," James VanMetre III says he wouldn't be sitting in a medium-security state prison 30 miles north of here awaiting first-degree rape and murder trials in two states.

If it weren't for those voices, the 34-year-old tree trimmer and occasional drifter wouldn't be facing what amounts to more than 200 years behind bars.

"You know, my mind kept telling me, 'Go for it,' " he told Pennsylvania state police in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was arrested last October and charged with the September rape, kidnapping and assault of a woman who lives near his parents' East Berlin Township home.

"Nothing was ever intentional with me, it's just that time someone just told me, 'Go, go for it, go for it,' you know. 'Go out and do a crime like that,' you know. I guess, 'Go break into somebody's house and kidnap somebody.' "

That statement to police -- combined with the testimony of the young woman -- is key evidence against VanMetre at his upcoming trial in the Court of Common Pleas here.

That trial -- originally set for April -- was pushed back to late next month so Adams County President Judge Oscar F. Spicer could rule on VanMetre's mental competency.

With that out of the way -- Spicer said VanMetre didn't prove to him that he was incompetent -- only a change of venue request and a motion to disallow the Chattanooga statement as evidence are left to be decided before July.

Since his arrest last October in the rape case and his indictment on first-degree murder charges last December in Carroll in the strangulation death of Holly Ann Blake, VanMetre has been held on $250,000 bond.

VanMetre's stay in county prison here was rocky enough, the warden says, to earn him a transfer to one of Pennsylvania's toughest prisons, the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill.

While there, VanMetre has "thrown a temper tantrum" over cigarettes and has written a letter from his cell to George Bush, threatening the president's life.

The letter and cigarette argument were examples of VanMetre's troubled mind, said his attorney and the psychiatrist who evaluated him.

"At one point he said, 'The voices are telling me not to talk to you,' " wrote Abram Hostetter, the court-appointed psychiatrist who interviewed him in April. "At one point later he said the voices may have told him to go and kidnap a woman. He then went on and said he is being framed by someone who looks like him."

Court records show that VanMetre "drank a lot and shot some pool" with his brother on the night the woman was kidnapped and assaulted. He said he went home, "erupted into a rage" and changed into army fatigues, then drove around, just looking for any home.

The woman -- whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy -- gave graphic testimony at a January preliminary hearing about the night of Sept. 15, when she said she was taken out of her home and driven to a campground where her hands were tied. She said she was raped three times -- once on the hood of her attacker's car -- before she was taken back to her house.

Attempts to contact VanMetre or his Adams County public defender, Anthony E. Miley, were unsuccessful, but court records show that he is expected to continue to pursue an insanity defense.

G; Once the rape case is settled, VanMetre will be sent to

Carroll to face murder charges.

The disappearance of Holly Ann Blake last September shook Gettysburg and Bonneauville, where she was living. She was last seen alive on Sept. 26 getting into a cream-colored Subaru with Tennessee plates registered to VanMetre, police said.

Blake, 28, the mother of two young girls, apparently had known VanMetre for about a week and probably entered the car willingly, police said.

A pile of ashes and human bone fragments was found on a Harney farm last Oct. 6. Maryland State Police said they believe VanMetre drove Blake to the farm in the 4700 block of Baptist Road, where his brother rents a home.

Police said a fight probably broke out and Blake was strangled. Her body was set on fire by her killer and her ashes scattered, police said.

As in the rape-kidnapping trial, prosecutors say they have an incriminating statement by VanMetre. If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in state prison -- a sentence that would begin after any imposed in Pennsylvania ends.

It is not clear whether VanMetre will employ an insanity defense in the murder trial.

VanMetre has been linked to violence against women before. Court records show that his 10-year marriage was filled with strife, including several kicks and punches to his wife.

Police arrested him in a Chattanooga motel last October on an outstanding bench warrant for failing to pay child support and violating a protective order.

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