NORRISTOWN — After spending several hours considering a plea agreement offer, a Pottstown man admitted to fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend during a violent altercation and will serve more than two decades in prison.

A somber Sean Patrick Emmell, 25, of the 400 block of North Washington Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Monday to 22½-to-45-years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to a third-degree murder charge in connection with the Jan. 3 fatal knife attack of 20-year-old Joshua Shupard, of Gilbertsville.

Emmell also pleaded guilty to separate charges of rape and attempted rape in connection with assaults of the woman he previously dated between Oct. 5, 2018, and the day of the murder.

“You are now a convicted murderer and a convicted rapist. This is a sad day. Three families have been impacted by your conduct,” Judge Wendy G. Rothstein addressed Emmell as she accepted a plea agreement and imposed Emmell’s punishment. “Time will tell whether you will change your life.”

Relatives of Shupard, a 2017 graduate of Pottsgrove High School, and Emmell wept in the courtroom as the case suddenly concluded on what was supposed to be a day of pretrial hearings.

“Hopefully, today will be the first day of a healing process,” Rothstein said as she addressed Shupard’s grieving relatives.

With the plea agreement, Emmell avoids a September trial and the risk of a conviction of first-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory life prison term. First-degree murder is an intentional killing.

By pleading guilty to third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, Emmell admitted he acted with “a hardness of heart and an extreme indifference to the value of human life” during the altercation with Shupard.

“There was a physical altercation. During that altercation, the defendant stabbed the victim multiple times and as a result of his conduct that night the victim tragically lost his life at a very young age,” said Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood, who was assisted by co-prosecutor Kelli Ann McGinnis.

Testimony revealed the plea agreement offer was made to Emmell two weeks ago and initially he rejected it on Monday.

“Take the deal,” an unidentified man in the courtroom shouted at one point, prompting a stern warning from the judge for spectators to remain silent.

After meeting privately with his mother, Emmell eventually told the judge, “I would like to accept the offer.”

“Has anyone forced you to enter this plea?” defense lawyer Carrie L. Allman later asked Emmell, who responded, “No.”

“Are you doing this of your own free will?” Allman asked, to which Emmell responded, “I am.”

Rothstein also questioned Emmell extensively regarding the voluntariness of his guilty plea before she accepted the plea agreement.

Wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, Emmell, who testimony revealed was previously diagnosed with a “major depressive disorder” and who overdosed twice during alleged suicide attempts in 2017 and 2018, did not react to the sentence as he was escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies. He offered no apology in court.

Emmell’s guilty plea came on the day the judge was supposed to consider pretrial motions in preparation for the Sept. 6 trial.

Shupard died at 6:46 p.m. Jan. 7, several days after the stabbing, at Reading Hospital Tower Health. An autopsy determined Shupard died from complications of a stab wound to the chest.

An investigation began about 11:56 p.m. Jan. 3 when borough police were dispatched to the 500 block of North Franklin Street for a report of a stabbing. Arriving officers found Shupard seated in the driver’s seat of his green Mercury Mountaineer, “bleeding profusely from a large chest wound,” according to the criminal complaint filed by Pottstown Detective Heather Long and county Detective John Wittenberger.

Police observed Emmell “crying while on his knees on an adjacent sidewalk,” Long and Wittenberger alleged.

“Officers observed that Emmell’s hands were blood stained. Approximately three-feet from Emmell, resting on the street, was a blood-stained, serrated folding knife,” detectives alleged.

A 19-year-old woman at the scene told detectives Shupard was her boyfriend and that she had a prior relationship with Emmell.

The woman allegedly told detectives Emmell had raped her during their relationship and she reported one of the rapes to police on Oct. 6, 2018, according to the criminal complaint.

The woman said that on Jan. 3 she agreed to meet Emmell because he was threatening to interfere with her recent recruitment in the U.S. military and that she told Shupard to “drive around and keep any eye out” because she did not trust Emmell, according to the arrest affidavit.

“In addition to having Joshua Shupard in the area of the meeting place, she armed herself with a folding knife,” detectives alleged. “(The woman) explained the knife was previously given to her for self-protection by Shupard after she had been raped by Emmell.”

The woman, driving a silver-colored Hyundai, picked up Emmell on North Evans Street and parked in front of Pottstown Middle School at 546 N. Franklin St. After “talking for a while,” the woman told Emmell she had to leave, detectives alleged.

Emmell allegedly became angry and told the woman he “wanted to have fun first,” according to the criminal complaint.

“(The woman) opened her driver’s side door and produced the opened folding knife, telling Emmell that he would not hurt her again,” Long and Wittenberger alleged. “Emmell was able to take the knife from (the woman) and threatened to stab her in the leg if she didn’t recline her chair.”

The woman activated her car’s horn and placed her leg outside the driver’s door to “signal” Shupard, who approached the Hyundai and inquired about what was happening, according to court documents. Emmell exited the woman’s vehicle and an altercation ensued with Shupard, detectives said.

Authorities said Emmell stabbed Shupard multiple times during the altercation.

The woman told detectives that after the stabbing she heard Emmell state, “I wanted to kill Josh,” according to court papers.

“Emmell also told detectives that he wanted to kill Joshua Shupard in the past when he had seen Shupard and (the woman) together,” Long and Wittenberger alleged.

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