HARRISBURG, Pa., July 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Corbett today signed an execution warrant for Michael J. Travaglia, who was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy for killing a Westmoreland County police officer.
Apollo Police Officer Leonard Clifford Miller was shot and killed on Jan. 3, 1980.
Officer Miller stopped a sports car containing Travaglia, his co-defendant and another passenger, after it repeatedly sped past him. As Officer Miller walked toward the car, he was shot twice. Law enforcement officers, responding to Officer Miller's call for assistance, later found the policeman's body lying on the highway. His service weapon was drawn and all six rounds had been fired.
In 1981, Travaglia was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy and sentenced to death in Westmoreland County Court for Officer Miller's death. Following a federal appeal, Travaglia was given a new sentencing hearing in 2005 and was again sentenced to death. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the sentence.
Officer Miller's death was the last in a series of crimes committed by Travaglia and his co-defendant. According to court documents, in the days preceding Officer Miller's death, Travaglia and his co-defendant:
- Forced Peter Levato to drive them out of Pittsburgh on Dec. 27, 1979, binding his feet and hands, hitting him over the head and pushing him over a bridge. When the men discovered Levato was still alive, Travaglia shot him once in the chest and twice in the head. Travaglia later pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy for Levato's death.
- Robbed and repeatedly shot Marlene Sue Newcomer, who had offered the men a ride in her vehicle on Jan. 1, 1980. Travaglia later pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy for Newcomer's death.
- Forced William Nicholls to drive them out of Pittsburgh on Jan. 2, 1980, then shot, beat and gagged the man before pushing him into a lake where he drowned. Travaglia pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy for that incident.
In 1985, Governor Richard L. Thornburgh issued the first execution warrant and in 1990, Governor Robert P. Casey issued a second execution warrant for Travaglia.
Travaglia, now 53, is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene. His execution has been scheduled for Sept. 13, 2012.
Travaglia's co-defendant, John C. Lesko, was also sentenced to death. In September 2011, Corbett signed an execution warrant for Lesko, now 53, who is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.
Travaglia's warrant is the 15th execution warrant signed by Governor Corbett.
Executions in Pennsylvania are carried out by lethal injection. For more information, visit the Department of Corrections online at www.cor.state.pa.us and select "Death Penalty" from the left-side navigation bar.
Media contact: Janet Kelley, 717-783-1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor