A Pennsylvania Mom Says Her Son Was Defending Himself In 2009 Shooting Incident

Joel Atkin was convicted of third-degree murder for the shooting death of Jayson Sack in 2009.

Joel Atkin was convicted of third-degree murder in 2010.

Joel Atkin was convicted of third-degree murder for the shooting death of Jayson Sack in 2009.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Reasonable Doubt")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Reasonable Doubt")

22-year-old Joel Atkin was driving to his mom’s house on April 25, 2009, when he encountered a group of people standing on a side street in Erie, Pennsylvania. What happened next was quick — Atkin says a man approached him, reached through his open car window, and began punching him in the head while trying to open the car door.

Atkin tumbled out of his vehicle and began to tussle with the man, later identified as 30-year-old Jayson Sack.

Atkin, who had a permit to carry a handgun, called 911 and told the dispatcher he was in a fight and was going to shoot. A gunshot then echoed across the line, and a single round struck Sack in the lower right abdomen.

Sack died, and Atkin was arrested at the scene and charged with murder.

Atkin claimed he was acting in self-defense, but he was convicted of third-degree murder in 2010 and received a 17-34 year sentence.

Atkin’s mother, Brenda Kiehlmeier, has been adamant that he was an innocent victim in fear for his life, and she sought help from retired police detective Chris Anderson and former criminal defense attorney Fatima Silva to prove it.

Tape, Trajectory, and A Prominent Family

Kiehlmeier told Anderson and Silva that she is positive her son would be dead if he hadn’t fired at Sack that day. According to Kiehlmeier, her son informed dispatchers that Sack had a knife, but she says that 32 seconds of audio was intentionally cut from the 911 tape played at Atkin’s trial because it would have hurt the prosecution’s case.

She described her son as a compassionate man and great big brother who had been on his school wrestling team and was planning to become a police officer himself before the day he was approached by Sack.

The way the bullet tore through Sack’s body bolsters the self-defense claim, according to Kiehlmeier. She told the investigators that the upward trajectory through Slack’s body proves that he was standing over her son when he was shot. She also asked them to review Atkin’s medical records — after his arrest, he complained of a headache and was taken to the hospital for a CT scan.

Kiehlmeier also questioned the fairness of the trial. Sack reportedly came from a well-known family in Erie, and Kiehlmeier doesn’t think there was any way her son could have had a fair and impartial jury.

To investigate that claim, Silva tracked down one of the jurors to ask him about the trial. What he told Fatima has haunted him each night since he cast his hesitant vote to convict Atkin of Slack’s murder.

Hear from the juror — as well as Atkin himself — as Silva and Anderson try to put the case to rest on Reasonable Doubt airing on ID Aug. 30 at 10/9c. More episodes are available now on discovery+.

Next Up

A Minnesota Neighborhood Was Ripped Apart Over A Dispute Turned Deadly

In August of 2016, all hell broke loose when one neighbor accused another of breaking his lawn mower.

Virginia Murder Linked To Serial Killer Who Took 10-Year Hiatus

When an Alexandria, Virginia man was murdered in 2013, police noticed an eerie similarity between his death and a crime that happened a decade before.

Fugitive Glen Holmes Jumps Bail, On The Run After Taco Cabana Murder

Authorities said Glen Holmes may be dressing as a woman. He stands 5 feet 4 inches tall. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please submit your tips to InPursuitTips.com or text 1-833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

'Citizen P.I.' Explores The World Of Amateur Sleuths Who Crack Unsolved Cases

This six-episode series showcases the colorful personalities of people who dive headfirst into the rabbit hole to solve violent crimes.

Idaho Attorney Murdered By Mistress’ Husband In Walgreen’s Parking Lot

Ashlee Harmon’s fifth child was just six weeks old when her husband and college sweetheart was gunned down in the parking lot of a pharmacy in 2011.

An Arizona Man Kills Two People, Claims It Was A Love Triangle Gone Bad

When police were summoned to the scene of a shooting in Mesa, Arizona on May 31, 2016, they found a woman who had been shot to death and a man clinging to life.

Virginia Couple Murdered While On 2002 Beach Vacation

Josh Ford and Geney Crutchley were spending Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City, Maryland, but things took a horrifying turn after they met another couple.

A Young Wisconsin Woman Was Killed Coming Home From Work, Her Case Went Unsolved For 10 Years

The lead detective on the 1999 murder case assured Theresa Wesolowski’s family he would not retire until he found her killer.

UPDATE: Fugitive Wanted For Killing Mother Of His Child Is In Custody

Brian Ontiveros was a San Antonio, TX fugitive wanted for allegedly killing the mother of his child in 2019.

Genetic Genealogy Solves Murder Of Two Colorado Women After Four Decades

“I never thought I’d see the day, frankly,” says one investigator who worked on the 1982 cold case.