Shrewsbury teen pleads guilty in friend’s death

A Shrewsbury Township teen who killed his friend after what authorities said was a night of excessive drinking and drug use pleaded guilty to third-degree murder Friday in York County Court.

Ryan Randolph Shiflett, 19, of 3697 Steltz Road, was immediately sentenced to six to 12 years in state prison, as part of a negotiated plea agreement, court records state. A first-degree murder charge against him was dismissed as part of the agreement.

Shiflett strangled Eric Cook, 19, of Gerbrick Road in Shrewsbury Township in the early-morning hours of April 25, 2008, then dumped the body along the 3700 block of Steltz Road (Route 851), police said.

Jury selection for Shiflett’s trial was scheduled to begin Friday morning, but was canceled when the plea agreement was reached, court records state.

After he is released from prison, Shiflett must serve five years of probation, Common Pleas Judge Penny Blackwell ordered.

Senior deputy prosecutor Karen Comery said had the case gone to trial, jurors could have found Shiflett guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Had that happened, Shiflett likely would have received a shorter sentence than he got under the plea agreement.

“It was a tough case,” she said.

Larry and Virginia Martin, Cook’s grandparents, attended Friday’s proceeding, and Virginia Martin spoke in open court.

“She wanted the court to know that she misses Eric every single day,” Comery said. The Martins raised Cook, the prosecutor said.

Shiflett made no eye contact with the Martins and did not apologize, according to Comery.

“He pretty much showed no emotion,” she said.

*Defense attorney Timothy Barrouk said the plea was an “appropriate resolution.”*

*”This is a tragic case with friends out in the woods consuming alcohol,” he said. “Unfortunately, it led to Eric Cook’s death. I think this resolution allows a measure of closure for Eric’s family, and some accountability (for Shiflett).”*

*At the same time, the sentence will give Shiflett the opportunity to leave prison “at a relatively young age, and become a productive member of society,” Barrouk said.*

Shiflett, Cook and a mutual friend, Aaron Gordon, were drinking shots of vodka at Shiflett’s house the night of April 24, 2008, and also shared three Vicodin pills and one Percocet pill, according to testimony from Shiflett’s preliminary hearing. Vicodin and Percocet are narcotics.

Around midnight, the three men headed back to Gordon’s house, where Cook and Shiflett said good night to Gordon and returned to Shiflett’s house, testimony revealed. That is where the murder occurred, police said.

When he was initially questioned by state police, Shiflett blamed Gordon for Cook’s death, but eventually admitted putting Cook in a sleeper hold, at which point Cook bit his arm, police said. Shiflett told troopers he held Cook in the sleeper hold “until he stopped wiggling,” police said.

Shiflett then used a garden cart to move Cook’s body from the Shifletts’ property to the shoulder of the road, police said.