Court denies appeal of man serving life for deaths of elderly Lancaster siblings

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A state court has denied the latest appeal of a prison inmate serving a life sentence for the killings of an elderly brother and sister in their Lancaster home.

John Askew, 79, is one of four men convicted in the starvation and dehydration deaths of 81-year-old Horace Swarr and his 87-year-old sister Mary.

Authorities say Askew led a plan to bind and gag the siblings during a burglary in 1979. Two co-defendants, Dale Healy and Robert O’Neil, posed as Social Security agents to get inside the home.

One of the men summoned help for the Swarrs, but he gave emergency responders the wrong address. Mary was dead when the tied up siblings were found days later and Horace died soon after.

Askew was convicted in 1989 of second-degree murder and sentenced to consecutive life terms. Among the arguments in his latest appeal was that his sentence was unconstitutional.

Superior Court found his request was decades too late and there was no new evidence to allow for an exemption.

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