Judge Panel Rejects Convicted Killer’s Wrongful Conviction Claim
WILKES-BARRE — A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court rejected a claim this week by convicted killer Eleazar Yisrael that he was wrongfully convicted of murder.
Yisrael, 32, of Hazleton, was convicted in December 2016 of first-degree murder and related offenses for shooting his girlfriend’s estranged husband, Samuel Vacante, in the back with his own .22-caliber rifle inside the garage of his home at 20 Coventry Road, Drums, on Aug. 31, 2015.
Prosecutors alleged Yisrael wanted to benefit by his girlfriend, Lisa Vacante, getting sole possession of the family’s house, which was being sold as part of her impending divorce from Samuel Vacante.
Yisrael appealed, arguing that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence to support his conviction. In a ruling Tuesday, the Superior Court acknowledged that much of the evidence was circumstantial but maintained the conviction was correct.
“The jury, as the ultimate finder in fact, was permitted to resolve any doubt as to (Yisrael’s) guilt,” the judges wrote. “In finding (Yisrael) guilty of first-degree murder, the jury clearly found the commonwealth’s theory credible. As the evidence supported the jury’s inference of (Yisrael’s) guilt, and the first-degree murder conviction, (he) is not entitled to relief.”
During trial, prosecutors showed jurors a mountain of evidence against Yisrael, including DNA evidence that the pants Butler Twp. police saw him wearing while walking toward the Vacante house the day of the shooting had the victim’s blood on them.
Yisrael was also caught on tape at a Blakeslee gas station driving Samuel Vacante’s car the night he disappeared, and the body was later discovered in Yisrael’s old neighborhood.
The stolen car turned up two blocks from Yisrael’s house in Hazleton, but the keys were in his bedroom.
In the car’s spare tire well — beneath a mat with Samuel Vacante’s blood on it — police found the vehicle’s license plate with Yisrael’s thumb print on the back.
Yisrael is serving life in prison without parole at State Correctional Institution Camp Hill.
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