PA Prosecutors’ Work Recognized Nationally for Conviction in the Murder of Wildlife Conservation Officer Grove

July 24, 2013

Harrisburg, PA — The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association’s immediate Past-President and Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner and Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele today receive the 2012-2013 Award for Outstanding Trial Advocacy in Capital Litigation.  The award was presented by the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation at its 34th Annual Seminar Conference in Washington, D.C.

The award is being given to Wagner and Steele for the leadership and multi-jurisdictional collaboration that led to the successful prosecution of Christopher Lynn Johnson. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the murder of Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove who was killed in Adams County. He was the only Pennsylvania wildlife conservation officer killed in the line of duty in ninety-five years, and his murder serves as a reminder of the dangers faced by all branches of law enforcement.

“No district attorney relishes trying a capital case, but when duty and the law calls, the work DA Wagner and First Assistant Steele did in this case demonstrates how prosecutors respond with professionalism and integrity,” said PDAA President and Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed.  “This was a sensitive case that required a sensitive response and the honor given to DA Wagner and First Assistant Steele through this award speaks first to their commitment as public servants and to justice.”

From the beginning of the investigation it was evident that Officer Grove’s murder required meticulous coordination and careful leadership across multi-jurisdictions including the State Police, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the immediate community, Officer Grove’s family and others.  In the months following Johnson’s apprehension, DA Wagner requested the assistance of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office because of its experience in homicide and capital cases.  First Assistant Kevin Steele, with the blessing of District Attorney Risa Ferman, volunteered to assist Adams County in the investigation and prosecution of Officer Grove’s murder.  Mr. Steele used vacation days to travel to Adams County and serve as DA Wagner’s co-counsel in the murder trial.

“As District Attorneys, we serve individual counties, but we are part of one law enforcement community in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Ferman. “In cases like the murder of Officer Grove, it is important that we share the knowledge, experience and expertise we have across the state to ensure that justice is served for victims of crime.”

Christopher Johnson’s nine-day trial moved along with impressive efficiency thanks to the preparation and forethought of District Attorney Wagner and First Assistant Steele.  On October 2, 2012, after less than thirty minutes of deliberation, Christopher Johnson was convicted of Murder in the First Degree for the intentional killing of WCO David L. Grove.  Only two days later, the same jury sentenced Johnson to death.