juvenile lifers

Juvenile lifers from Lancaster County who were resentenced in 2018 are, from left to right, top row: Clarence Laudenberger, Anthony Lewis, Aramis Gonzalez and Emru Kebede; second row: Gregory Sourbeer, Levar Jones, Manuel Ortiz and Melisa McManus; and third row, Michael Bourgeois, Tabitha Buck, Ricardo Cruz and Rodney Walton.

Four people from Lancaster County who received life without parole prison terms for crimes they committed as juveniles have been granted parole in the past 18 months. Three of them have been released from prison, while a fourth could be released as early as Dec. 21.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that juveniles given mandatory life sentences without parole must have their sentences revisited. The ruling widened an opinion it issued in 2012 that stated juveniles cannot be subject to mandatory life sentences without parole.

Locally, the high court's 2016 order applied to 13 inmates:

  • Michael Bourgeois, 35, tortured and killed his mother and stepfather, Terry and Lucy Smith, in 2001. He was resentenced on Nov. 3, 2018, to two consecutive terms of 40 years to life, meaning he will be eligible for parole when he is 97.

  • Tabitha Buck, 45, helped Lisa Michelle Lambert kill 16-year-old Laurie Show in December 1991. She was resentenced on Nov. 22, 2018, to 28 years to life. She was granted parole on Aug. 15 and could be released from prison as early as Dec. 21.

  • Ricardo Cruz, 41, fatally shot 18-year-old Debbie Rivera in 1992 on the playground of Carter and MacRae Elementary School on South Prince Street. He was resentenced on Sept. 5, 2018, to 25 years to life. He was released from prison on Dec. 16, 2018.

  • Aramis Gonzalez III, 39, shot and killed convenience store clerk Michael Heath in 1996. He was resentenced on Dec. 13, 2018, to 30 years to life, meaning he will be eligible for parole in December 2026.

  • Levar Jones, 39, shot and killed Lancaster taxi driver Brian Whetts on Oct. 26, 1994. He was resentenced on Dec. 19, 2018, to 25 years to life, meaning he became eligible for parole in October.

  • Emru Kebede, 29, conspired with three men in their 20s to rob and kill Ray Diener at his home outside Elizabethtown on May 2, 2007. He was resentenced on Jan. 3, 2018, to 30 years to life, meaning he is eligible for parole in May 2037.

  • Alec Kreider, deceased, fatally stabbed Kevin Haines and his parents Tom and Lisa Haines in their Manheim Township home in 2007. He was serving three consecutive life sentences when he killed himself in 2017. He was 25 years old.

  • Clarence Laudenberger, 40, participated in the robbery turned murder of convenience store clerk Michael Heath in 1996. He was resentenced on Oct. 11, 2018, to 21 years to life. He was released from prison on March 13, 2018.

  • Anthony R. Lewis, 41, acted as a lookout during the robbery turned murder of convenience store clerk Michael Heath in 1996. He was resentenced on Oct. 4, 2018, to 25 years to life, meaning he will be eligible for parole in 2022.

  • Melisa McManus, 43, killed her infant son in 1993 and disposed of his body in the Susquehanna River. She was resentenced on Nov. 9, 2018, to 25 years to life. She was released from prison on June 30, 2018.

  • Manuel Ortiz, 41, conspired with Levar Jones to rob Lancaster taxi driver Brian Whetts and provided the gun used in Whetts’ death. He was resentenced on Dec. 19, 2018, to 33 years to life, meaning he is eligible for parole in October 2027.


  • Rodney L. Walton, 40, participated in the robbery turned murder of convenience store clerk Michael Heath in 1996. He was resentenced on Oct. 6, 2018, to 25 years to life, meaning he will be eligible for parole in 2022.