New trial ordered in 1997 for the murder of the owner of an art gallery

A new trial has been ordered for a man sentenced to death for the murder nearly a quarter century ago of a Pennsylvania art gallery owner who was about to testify against him.

A Lebanon County judge ruled last month that Kevin Dowling, now 63, of East Petersburg, deserves a new trial for the October 1997 murder of Jennifer Myers, 43, near Spring Grove in the township of West Manchester. Prosecutors said she had to testify that he had sexually assaulted and robbed her a year earlier.

Senior Judge Robert Eby cited the failure of defense counsel to provide effective assistance and prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence. A woman testified she saw Dowling in a Spring Lake parking lot shortly before Myers was shot three times, but Eby said he was at a Lancaster County lake at the time.

A state trooper testified in 1998 that a store receipt provided by the witness had an incorrect timestamp because the register clock was 20 minutes slow, but expert witnesses for the defense and the Commonwealth agreed that the timestamp was accurate, Eby said.

Dowling was convicted of first degree murder in 1998 and sentenced to death. He was also convicted of robbing and assaulting Myers in 1996 and was sentenced to nine to 18 years in prison. An assistant federal defender now representing Dowling declined to comment, the York Daily Record reported.

Former York County Assistant District Attorney Tom Kelley, who prosecuted the case, requested a copy of the notice and said “we never disclosed anything.” A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said, “We respectfully disagree with the finding reached by the court and plan to appeal.”

William E. Bennett