Ralph Bolden

On June 29, 1994, Ralph Bolden went to Valor Sports Shop on Streets Run Rd. in Baldwin to buy a gun. Lacking identification and enough money to complete the purchase, he returned just after the store opened the next morning.

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800 Streets Run Rd.

Armed, he stole eleven guns and shot two store clerks, both of whom were also armed. John K. Calabro, 50, was killed; Michael John Elder, 34, survived.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 1, 1994

The initial police investigation produced no leads in the case. However, the stolen guns were traceable. It was only a matter of time before one was used in a crime or sold in a manner that could lead police to the killer.

Bolden, who was unemployed and living with his mother at the time of the killing, was arrested nearly five months later, on November 23, 1994, when guns that he was selling were traced to the store.

At trial, Bolden’s attorney argued that he was mentally ill and incapable of forming intent. Bolden was convicted of first-degree murder on February 29, 1996, and, after lengthy jury deliberations, sentenced to death on March 2, 1996. The jury determined that his mental illness, veteran status, and lack of a prior record were outweighed by the deliberation evident in the crime.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3, 1996

After his conviction, it was determined that Bolden had fabricated his mental illness and had fooled or asked witnesses to testify to that illness.

Bolden’s death sentence was reversed on appeal on June 20, 2000, due to court and defense counsel errors during the penalty phase of the trial (Commonwealth v. Bolden, 562 Pa. 94). A new sentencing hearing was ordered, and Bolden was sentenced to life in prison without parole on March 9, 2001.

Now 52 years old, Ralph Bolden remains in prison at SCI-Albion.

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Ralph Bolden, 2018

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

One thought on “Ralph Bolden”

  1. I was a juror on this case. There are many cases where the death penalty is not appropriate. This is not one of them. In the penalty phase of the case, they admitted he did it.

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