Convicted killer of Jason Rivenburg petitions judge for new trial

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Nearly three years ago Willie Pelzer III was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole after admitting to killing New York truck driver Jason Rivenburg. Pelzer was back in a South Carolina courtroom on Nov. 1 petitioning for a new trial.

Jason’s widow, Hope Rivenburg, and her mom traveled to Calhoun County, SC, to attend Pelzer’s post-conviction relief hearing. She said she received notification about Pelzer’s PCR hearing from the state. She said she still gets notifications either by email or phone about anything involving Pelzer.

The reason for a PCR hearing is to allow the convicted person seeking “to prove that his original trial lawyer was incompetent in handling his case or that there were other errors that prove his trial was unfair,” according to information on South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s website.

Hope Rivenburg told Land Line that she wasn’t allowed to speak at the hearing, but that Pelzer and his lawyers who represented him at trial testified before First Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen.

In December 2009, a South Carolina jury found Pelzer, now 26, guilty of murder after he admitted in open court that he shot and killed 35-year-old Jason Rivenburg for the $7 he found on him. Rivenburg was parked at an abandoned gas station off Interstate 26 near St. Matthews, SC. He parked there because there was no alternative after he arrived several hours early with a load of organic milk headed for the Food Lion distribution center in Elloree, SC. He was turned away and the delivery never took place.

Since her husband’s death on March 5, 2009, Hope Rivenburg has worked tirelessly with lawmakers on behalf of truckers to bring awareness to the need for more safe truck parking. A provision known as “Jason’s Law,” which makes safe parking a national priority, was included in the new highway bill – MAP-21 – which was signed into law in July 2012. 

Hope Rivenburg said the judge will issue a ruling in Pelzer’s request for a new trial in about a month.

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