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Montreal truck driver’s killer awaits sentencing

MONTREAL, Que. - A central Pennsylvania man is to be sentenced this month after being convicted of third-degree murder in the senseless shooting death last year of Canadian trucker Neil Martin Tatters...


MONTREAL, Que. – A central Pennsylvania man is to be sentenced this month after being convicted of third-degree murder in the senseless shooting death last year of Canadian trucker Neil Martin Tattersall.

Lance Richard Ossman was found guilty Sept. 27 by a Schuykill County jury that also determined the 37-year-old Tower City, PA, resident is mentally ill.

County Judge Charles M. Miller ordered Ossman be sent to a state prison diagnostic center for up to 60 days to undergo a psychiatric examination before being handed his sentence Nov. 23.

A.J. Serina, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case with fellow assistant district attorney James Caravan, suggested Ossman could get up to 40 years behind bars in a mental-health facility within Pennsylvania’s prison system.

The jurors deliberated 11 hours over two days before rendering their decision following the five-day trial.

“It’s still excruciatingly painful,” Tattersall’s widow, Assineth (Anita) Gavrielatos, told Truck News on her return home to the Montreal burrough of Ile Bizard after attending the trial at which she was a witness for the prosecution.

Although she found “some relief” in Ossman’s conviction, Gavrielatos said she still wasn’t ready to talk about her husband’s slaying and the subsequent court case.

Gavrielatos, who was secretary of G.T.X. Auto Transport Inc. that Tattersall founded in 1997, testified she last spoke with him in a telephone call while he was travelling south on Interstate 84 in Pike County, PA, around 11:30 p.m. April 20, 2004 – three days before his 55th birthday.

Tattersall, whose company specialized in hauling luxury vehicles between Canada and the U.S., was on his way to pick up a load of cars in Florida.

Mere hours after their conversation, he was gunned down in a hail of bullets in his Freightliner at a pull-off area along Interstate 81 in nearby Schuykill County.

A passing trucker called 911 at 6:30 a.m. Apr. 21 to report that a tractor-trailer with its windows smashed was parked on the pull-off.

About an hour later and less than 16 kilometres north of the scene, state trooper Michael Gownley pulled his cruiser over to assist a driver (Ossman) with a flat tire.

Gownley testified the driver’s hands and clothes were bloody and that he told the policeman he could fix the shredded tire with a “big knife” he had in the car.

But when Gownley noticed a rifle in the vehicle, he called for backup. Police recovered seven guns, assorted knives, including a sword and machetes, as well as a stun gun and stun baton.

Officers discovered Tattersall’s bullet-ridden body while checking the report about the truck with the smashed windows about 10 a.m.

After matching the bloody trucking company jacket Ossman was wearing with the logo on Tattersall’s truck, he was arrested.

County pathologist Richard Bindie took the stand to say Tattersall was shot 11 times from all directions, at least three fired at close range.

Bindie added that any of three particular wounds – to his upper eyelid, chin and left side – were enough to kill Tattersall. He was also shot in the heart and neck.

Five bullets recovered from his body were fired from a .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol that was found in Ossman’s car along with a towel stained with blood that matched both men.

Larry Rotenberg, a psychiatrist testifying for the defence, told the court that Ossman “had a particular sensitivity to people coming up behind him. He (believed) he had to do something cataclysmic to save himself.”

Although he never directly admitted to killing Tattersall, Ossman expressed feelings of guilt and claimed he was possessed by a demon when he reacted to the trucker allegedly tail-gaiting him that day.

Ossman has been diagnosed as bipolar and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1987 on the basis of the mental illness.

An online Internet poll conducted on a U.S. Web site found nearly 47 per cent of respondents (38 of 81) thought Ossman deserves the death penalty: no questions asked.

Another 12 per cent voted on a sentence of 100 years or life imprisonment while an almost equal number indicated the “idiot” should kill himself and save the taxpayers.

In an ironic twist of fate, another Quebec trucker lost his life in Schuykill County on the same day of Ossman’s conviction.

Pierre-Luc D’Amours of Saint-Anaclet-de-Lessard in the lower St. Lawrence region was killed when several tractor-trailers and passenger cars collided on the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 near Pine Grove, PA, the morning of Sept. 27.

The county coroner said the 24-year-old driver for Fidle Tremblay Inc. of Saint-Luce, Que., was killed when his load of steel I-beams shifted then punched into the tractor and pinned him inside the cabin.

“It intruded into the passenger compartment six feet,” coroner David J. Dutcavich reported. “He was crushed between the seat and steering wheel.”

– Mike King can be contacted at mking@videotron.ca


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