Young woman gets 30 years to life in slaying of WWII vet

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India Spellman was found guilty of a 2010 murder of a WWII vet. Spellman was sentenced to 30 years to life on Thursday.

India Spellman was sentenced to 30 years to life Thursday by a Philadelphia judge.

  • She was found guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of George “Bud” Greaves, 87, during a robbery in Feb.
  • Spellman rejected prosecution guilty-plea deals twice since the trial began on Feb. 13.

A former Cedarbrook teenager whose one-day robbery spree with a 14-year-old boy ended in the 2010 shooting death of a World War II veteran, was sentenced to 30 years to life today by a Philadelphia judge.

Dressed in a blue-plaid flannel shirt and jeans, hands cuffed in front of her, India Spellman said nothing before the mandatory sentence was imposed by Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart.

“This is a very sad case,” Minehart said. “We have here a young person from an excellent family.”

Minehart told Spellman that in one respect she was fortunate: the U.S. Supreme Court last June ruled that mandatory life prison terms for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“You at least have the opportunity for parole though it won’t be for a long time,” Minehart added.

In Pennsylvania, inmates become eligible for parole when they serve their minimum sentence, in Spellman’s case 30 years.

On Feb. 20, a Philadelphia jury found Spellman, now 20, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of George “Bud” Greaves, 87, a Navy Seabee who served on Guam during the war, during a botched robbery outside Greaves’ house in Cedarbrook.

Twice since the trial began on Feb. 13, Spellman had rejected prosecution guilty-plea deals that would have put her in prison for 20 to 40 years.

Defense attorney Harry R. Seay alluded to some psychiatric problems found during Spellman’s presentence investigation but did not elaborate.

Otherwise, Seay could cite nothing remarkable about the tall, young woman who worked part-time at a local doughnut shop, attended Martin Luther King High School and wanted to play basketball.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb asked Minehart for a sentence of 40 years to life.

“I think the word senseless is overused,” Lipscomb said, referring to Greaves’ murder. “I would call it nihilistic: betraying a belief in nothing, that nothing is sacred. Not old age, not property, not life itself.”

Spellman was tried for two robberies committed near her Cedarbrook home on the afternoon of Aug. 18, 2010.

Authorities said her accomplice was 14-year-old Von Combs, a neighborhood boy who knew her brother. Combs would become the chief witness against her.

The first crime was the gunpoint robbery of Shirley Phillips in the 7700 block of Rugby Street. About two hours later, authorities said, Spellman shot and killed Greaves as he grabbed for her gun during an attempted robbery outside his house on Pickering Avenue at Phil-Ellena Street.

Based on descriptions from Phillips and several Greaves neighbors, police arrested Combs and Spellman within a day.

Combs was tried as a juvenile in 2011 and found guilty of second-degree murder. Now in a Western Pennsylvania juvenile facility, Combs testified for the prosecution that Spellman suggested the robberies. He said it was her gun and that she used it to threaten Phillips and kill Greaves.

Spellman’s statement to police said Combs carried the 25-caliber pistol and shot Greaves.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.