Tarselli re-sentenced to 54 years to life for 1992 execution style fatal shooting

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County President Judge Michael T. Vough said he had a sleepless night pondering the re-sentence of Todd Rae Tarselli, who admitted to fatally shooting his friend Mark Bunchalk inside a Hazleton Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Jan. 23, 1992.

Vough outlined more than a dozen factors he had to consider including sentencing guidelines from three decades ago, the impact on Bunchalk’s family, and the rehabilitation needs of Tarselli.

But as Vough also pointed out, Tarselli plotted the killing of Bunchalk.

“This was a planned murder, not a planned robbery,” the president judge said. “This was a robbery to cover up a murder. Sir, you went there with intent to kill Mark Bunchalk. You planned this; you bought a gun three weeks before you went to the KFC looking for him, scouting out the scene three or four days before.

“You fastened a silencer; think about that in 1992,” Vough said, continuing with his reason, “Now you go on Google on how to make a silencer and you have one in five minutes. Back in 1992, there was no Google or internet services. You had to get a book or go to a library and do research on how to fasten a silencer. This was a premeditated murder, not a robbery.”

Vough re-sentenced Tarselli, 49, to 40 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder of Bunchalk, 17, at the restaurant he managed.

Tarselli was awarded a new sentencing hearing by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in July 2021, based on a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling which declared mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. The state appellate court questioned Tarselli’s birthday as he was born in South Korea, which calculated birthdays differently than in the United States.

Tarselli, then 17, was initially sentenced by former Judge Correale F. Stevens, now President Judge Emeritus of the Superior Court, to life in prison without parole in November 1993.

Vough did not disturb Tarselli’s sentence of 10 to 20 years for robbery and two years, six months to five years for illegally possessing a weapon, a .22-caliber rifle.

Since Tarselli’s sentences are to run consecutively, he will spend 52 years and six months to life in prison. He was awarded 31 years, six months and 16 days of credit for time served.

Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle requested a new sentence of at least 35 years to life with parole, describing the shooting as an “execution style homicide for a little more than $1,000.”

McMonagle said Tarselli took away Mark Bunchalk’s life along with the lives of family members who testified before Vough on Wednesday, including his mother, Carol Bunchalk.

In seeking leniency and mercy, Attorney William J. Watt III said he has represented Tarselli for seven to eight years and would probably be the only client to invite into his own home.

Watt said Tarselli bettered himself in prison by painting art that has been displayed at museums and galleries throughout the United States, including some of his art pieces on book covers, and taking part in prison programs.

Watt reviewed Tarselli’s life by being abandoned in South Korea and left at an orphanage. Tarselli was adopted by an American family but was not well loved.

In the weeks leading up to the murder, Watt said Tarselli’s adoptive parents gave him a garbage bag and told him to leave when he was only 17.

As Tarselli apologized to the Bunchalk family on Wednesday, McMonagle said his actions on Jan. 23, 1992, took a young man’s life, impacted the lives of the Bunchalk family and affected the community.


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