YORK, Pa. — As Larry Markle was walking on Market Street in Harrisburg, an eerie feeling came over him.
He looked out the corner of his eye. Someone, he thought, was behind him. His heart started to race.
It was his shadow.
That’s what happened not long after Markle was released from prison, where he spent 42 years for a murder he committed at 17 in York. He’s gone from a place where every minute of every day was scheduled — when he got up, worked and ate — to living in a community that he’s never known.
“I think it had been a long, long time since I’d been scared in my life,” Markle said. “But I can actually say this is scary.”
Markle, 59, formerly of York, is one of 95 so-called “juvenile lifers” in Pennsylvania who have been released due to a recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Right now, he’s living in a halfway house in Harrisburg and trying to readjust to life on the outside. He’s faced a number of setbacks, including having to get one of his toes amputated due to complications from diabetes.
Meanwhile, family members of Arthur Klinedinst, whom Markle killed during a robbery, are now grappling with the reality that life in prison without the possibility of parole did not mean life.
‘You better get back or I’ll blow your … head off’
On Oct. 9, 1975, Markle went into Eddie’s Food Market on West Philadelphia Street near North West Street. He pulled out a shotgun that was hidden in a cardboard box.
During the robbery, Klinedinst walked into the store, put his umbrella on a rack and started to look at some celery. Markle shot and killed him when he apparently didn’t hear a command to get back.
He was 72.
Markle made off with $206. He ditched the shotgun and changed his clothes. Next, he hailed a taxi to get his hair cut.
Police arrested him about four hours later at Mailman’s Department Store in the Queensgate Shopping Center.
Eventually, after a second trial, Markle was found guilty of second-degree murder and related offenses and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“Once you walk through those doors and you hear that shutting — back then, they were metal doors, steel doors — it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I’m here. What is going to happen next?” he said.
As a teenager in a “violent adult world,” Markle said it took him a few years to adjust to life in prison.
He realized there were three paths he could take: Give up. Be a menace to the prison system. Or better himself. So, Markle said, he decided to get his GED diploma and participate in organizations including the Jaycees and the Lifers Association.
Everything changed in 2016.
The U.S. Supreme Court made retroactive a ruling that held it was unconstitutional to hand down mandatory life sentences for those who committed crimes before they turned 18. Markle would have to be resentenced.
In Pennsylvania, judges can still impose life-without-parole sentences in cases in which it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is incapable of being rehabilitated. That didn’t happen in this case.
York County District Attorney Tom Kearney and James Burke, Markle’s attorney, reached an agreement on a new sentence: 42 years to life.
In his report, Larry Rotenberg, an expert in forensic psychiatry who evaluated Markle, wrote that he had made “remarkable progress” and underwent “a real transformation of his character” while in prison.
“He has changed. He has matured,” Rotenberg said. “He has taken stock of the enormity of what he has done, and had never made peace with himself over it, while at the same time, using it as a springboard for doing good to others.”
On Dec. 19, 2016, Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn imposed the sentence outlined in the plea agreement.
Later, Markle got parole.
“I truly felt accomplishment,” he said. “I felt like, you know, ‘I’m better. I’m a changed person.’ I really did.”
‘It was an opportunity that came along’
Fast forward to Oct. 10, 2017.
At about 7 a.m., Markle was called to reception at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill. He got dressed in clothes sent by his family. He signed his release papers and walked out the door.
The world looked brighter. The air smelled better. The food had taste.
Still, Markle said, it wasn’t a celebration. He referred to it as a reunion, adding that he never wants to take away from the fact that he was in prison for a serious crime.
Markle said he can’t comprehend what the Klinedinst family is experiencing. They’re the ones, he said, who lost a husband, father and grandfather.
“I know it has to be so hard for them to even fathom. I believe they had closure for so many years, and to think that now that all the sudden it’s all back, ‘He’s getting out.'”
“All the bad feelings, all the bad — all that ugliness from the day that it happened — now is back,” Markle said.
The ‘everybody’s man’
Arthur Klinedinst was a kind-hearted person.
Klinedinst was a retired mechanic at Borg-Warner Corp. who volunteered at St. Paul’s Evangelical Congregational Church in York. He was compassionate, his family said, and well-known in the community.
“He was the guy that if something was broken, if something needed fixed, if one of the widows in the neighborhood needed help, he was the guy everybody went to,” said his granddaughter, Ginger Klinedinst-Herbst, 54, of York Township. “He was the everybody’s man.”
He was like a second father, Klinedinst-Herbst said. She could turn to him as a sounding board for conversations that she couldn’t have with her parents.
Klinedinst-Herbst said her grandfather would record family gatherings on tapes as a way to capture memories. He’d play them back if the same topic came up in a conversation.
Robin Yinger, 49, of Springettsbury Township, recalled how her grandfather was a loving man.
Every Sunday, Yinger said, they’d go to their grandparents’ home on West Clarke Avenue in York after church for dinner.
She’d go downstairs because they always had treats for them including ice cream cups, fudge popsicles and butterscotch pudding. Klinedinst, she said, would call her a “squirmy worm” because she couldn’t sit still on his lap.
“They always just made us feel happy and welcome,” Yinger said. “I wish I would’ve had more time.”
‘My grandfather will never be paroled’
Yinger said she’s forgiven Markle — but will never forget what he did. She doesn’t think he should’ve been released from prison.
“It is hard at times to know that my grandfather will never be paroled from the sentence he was given that day,” she said. “I lost all those years. I was so young. So I forgive, but I don’t forget, because I lost so much that day.”
Klinedinst-Herbst said she’s still very angry with him in some ways.
“Personally, I think Larry should rot in hell. I mean, that’s just how I feel about it. He stole something that can never be replaced,” Klinedinst-Herbst said.
“It wasn’t just a death in the family,” she later added. “It was the turning upside down of everything that I had known.”
When her grandfather died, Klinedinst-Herbst said she moved in with their grandmother, Edith, for 1 1/2 years. She was devastated by her husband’s death. “In her mind’s eye, her life had ended when his did.”
It also hit Edward Greenholt hard. He owned Eddie’s Food Market.
During the resentencing hearing, Dottie Moquin, Greenholt’s daughter, addressed the court.
She said her father — who prayed for Markle every day — was haunted by the memories of what happened. He’d have nightmares about the murder and would lunge out of bed.
Greenholt, she said, had to eventually close the store.
‘I just want to live life’
The main issue for these men and women is finding employment, said John Pace, who’s the juvenile life without parole reentry coordinator with the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project in Philadelphia.
Pace is a juvenile lifer who served 31 years in prison. People are not only getting out after serving a long time in prison, he said, but they have a felony on their record.
When a person has a job, Pace said, he or she can navigate other challenges including finding housing. In his experience, he said, people in this group want to be good examples in the community.
But as part of his parole, Markle is not allowed to live or travel in York County.
Maria Finn, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, said these conditions are individually tailored.
“It’s not, ‘You’re a juvenile lifer, so you’re going to get this restriction,'” she said. “We treat the juvenile lifers the same way we would treat any other parolee.”
In an interview at her home in Conewago Township, Melissa Beer, Markle’s sister, said she’s felt, at times, that it would be easier if her brother were still in prison.
Beer, 50, said she believes that everyone deserves a second chance. She’s been on both sides. In 1997, Daron “Dee” Nesbit, who was 16, murdered her nephew, Paul Smith, in York.
“It’s like Larry’s not getting that second chance,” Beer said. “If he’s given a second chance, then let him come home, be with family. Let the family take care of him. Let his mother die in peace.”
“If he was set free,” said his mother, Nancy Markle, 81, from her bed in hospice care, “then why ain’t he home?”
For his part, Markle said he’s come to realize that there are other places “on this big planet.” ”I survived 42 years in prison,” he said. “I can survive anywhere, you know?”
Recently, Markle landed back in Harrisburg Hospital with another bone infection and is now at a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Camp Hill.
He said he doesn’t want to ruin the opportunity for those who could be released after him.
“I just want to live the remainder of my years productive, give back and help my fellow man in any way I can,” he said. “I just want to live life.”
About ‘juvenile lifers’ in Pennsylvania:
Amy Worden, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, provided the following statistics about juvenile lifers:
.Active cases: 515
.Parole rate: 89.5 percent
New sentences for ‘juvenile lifers’ from York County:
.Scott Griffin (1974): 43 years-life
.Larry Markle (1975): 42 years-life
.Warner Batty Jr. (1975): 50 years-life
.Scott Davis (1980): 40 years-life
.Michael Lehman (1988): 30 years-life
.Dwayne Morningwake (1988): 55 years-life
.Wilfredo Cabarello (1988): 33 years, 10 months and 12 days-life
.Daron Nesbit (1997): 38 years-life
.Zach Witman (1988): Pending
.Kwilson Coleman (2008): Pending
.Jordan Wallick (2010): 30 years-life (The latest ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court did not apply to him. That’s because his sentence wasn’t final when the justices first ruled in 2012 that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for minors were unconstitutional.)
Information from: York Daily Record, http://www.ydr.com