Pennsylvania 'castle doctrine' protects man who shot his romantic rival

No charges were filed against a Pennsylvania man who shot his wife's lover with a bow and arrow.

(AP Photo / Jane Mingay)
The Castle Doctrine says a man's home is his castle, and provides a legal defense for armed response to intruders. Above, Windsor Castle in England.

A man who fatally shot his wife's lover with a bow and arrow won't face criminal charges, in part, because the state's expanded "castle doctrine" makes it legal to use deadly force on one's porch or deck, a prosecutor said Tuesday, Dec. 27.

State police have repeatedly said they believed the 38-year-old Central City man acted in self-defense when he killed Tony Bittinger, 43, of Salisbury, on Oct. 9.

Somerset County District Attorney Jerry Spangler formally announced Tuesday that he agreed with police and that no criminal charges should be filed against the shooter, who has not been named by authorities.

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The woman has told police and the media that she was still living with her husband, but hoped to marry Bittinger, at the time of the fatal confrontation outside the married couple's home.

Trooper Joseph Dzral said at a news conference that Bittinger, accompanied by two brothers, drove nearly 40 miles to the home and had been drinking. Toxicology results from Bittinger's autopsy put his blood-alcohol content at 0.18 percent, or more than double the state's legal limit for drivers.

Drzal said Bittinger had left a voice mail for the wife threatening "to put a hole in (her husband's) head." He approached the house and was swinging a 32-inch wooden club as he climbed the stairs to the porch, where he was shot with a compound bow and arrow, Drzal said.

Spangler said prosecutors would have had to prove the woman's husband wasn't acting in self-defense to convict him of killing Bittinger. That would have been even more difficult given changes to the castle doctrine law earlier this year, Spangler said.

The law formerly permitted deadly force against an intruder in one's home, but required a resident to prove he had attempted to retreat or flee before using such force outside the home. The revised law permits self-defense without retreat outside the home, which is where police said Bittinger was shot in the chest with an arrow.

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