WILKES-BARRE — After being incarcerated for the last 34 years, a man initially sentenced to death for killing a Plymouth Township man during the robbery of an area animal hospital soon will walk out of prison a free man.
Tyrone “Kareem” Moore, 62, appeared before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on Thursday for a hearing related to his long-running case; his conviction had been overturned two years ago. Per a plea agreement, Moore pleaded no contest to a single charge of criminal homicide in the third degree.
Other charges of robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, theft by unlawful taking, and recklessly endangering another person were withdrawn.
Moore was sentenced in connection with a deadly shooting during a robbery on Oct. 1, 1982, at the Forty Fort Animal Hospital on Wyoming Avenue.
Vough accepted the plea agreement, and sentenced Moore to 10 to 20 years incarceration, giving him credit for his 34 years as time served. Vough ordered that Moore immediately be released from prison after processing at a state prison facility.
Speaking to the court, Moore said he was “wholeheartedly innocent” of all charges. Vough asked him again if he knew what it meant to plead no contest, and Moore said that he did.
“I want to be home with my family,” he said.
When asked how it felt to finally be a free man, Moore called it “a blessing.”
Prosecutors said they re-examined the case after his conviction was overturned. Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino explained that a number of witnesses in the case have died, and some even recanted their testimony in the case before passing away.
As a result, he explained, it would have been a “very, very difficult case” for prosecutors to attempt to pursue.
Ferentino called the plea agreement “the end to a multi-decade chapter” in Luzerne County.
“We arrived at what we believe to be the fairest result, which would be for the first time in court, Mr. Moore acknowledging that we have significant evidence against him,” Ferentino said.
Ferentino said Moore would be transferred from Luzerne County Correctional Facility to SCI Graterford for processing. Ferentino anticipated Moor’s release from custody would happen “sooner rather than later,” perhaps even before Christmas.
Nicholas Romanchick, 31, and his wife, Karen Ann, took their cat to the animal hospital, where it was being treated by Dr. Joseph Lopotofsky. Two men entered the clinic, saying they had struck a dog.
Lopotofsky told them to bring the dog inside. The two men then pulled guns. As one of the men began tying up Lopotofsky and Karen Ann Romanchick, the other armed man shot Nicholas Romanchick in the back and fled the clinic with a purse.
Nicholas Romanchick died 13 days after sustaining the gunshot wound, according to court records and Times Leader archives.
Ferentino said Romanchick’s family has been notified of the plea agreement, and said they are in support of it.
“We’re all looking to move forward at this point,” he said. He added that since the case began to fall apart years ago, they knew this outcome was possible. “They were very understanding and supportive of us.”
Moore was convicted of first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy, robbery, theft and reckless endangerment. A jury sentenced him to death, but the sentence was overturned by then-county judge Mark Ciavarella in 2000. Moore was resentenced in 2004 to life in prison.
Ferentino noted that during his 22 years on death row, Moore was in solitary confinement.
In 2014, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner in Harrisburg overturned Moore’s conviction and ordered Luzerne County prosecutors to either retry him or release him, citing discrepancies in testimony among witnesses who testified during Moore’s trial.
A co-conspirator in the deadly shooting, Ricardo Scott, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder prior to Moore’s trial. Scott was sentenced to 10 years, which was allowed to run at the same time with a federal sentence for a bank robbery in Chinchilla.
Anthony Bradley Jones, who claimed he was with Moore and Scott when they hatched the plan to rob the animal hospital, was convicted of third-degree murder for his role in the Romanchick killing and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison. He died Aug. 20, 2003.
Scott also has died.