On the last night of her life, Catherine Janet Walsh seemed happy as she met up with three friends for drinks and a girls night out.
Three decades later, the details of that night proved difficult to remember, but today those three women tried reaching back into fuzzy memories to the last time they saw the 23-year-old Monaca woman they knew as Janet.
The three Monaca women — Georgina Wilson, Margie Farinacci and Elaine DeLuco — were the first witnesses to testify in the trial that opened today of Gregory Scott Hopkins, 67, a former Bridgewater councilman, in the Beaver County Courthouse.
Mr. Hopkins, who runs a construction and snow removal business and who has been under electronic monitoring since November 2012, is charged with criminal homicide.
Walsh was found by her parents Sept. 1, 1979, facedown in her bed in her Monaca home with a handkerchief tied around her neck. Cause of death was strangulation.
Evidence found on the back of her nightgown could not be tested in 1979, but DNA analysis in recent years was tied to Mr. Hopkins, who had been having an affair with the separated woman. Mr. Hopkins maintains he had broken off the relationship and had not seen her for several weeks before her slaying.
He has said he was preparing for a pig roast the night of her death.
Brittany Smith, the prosecutor, said in her opening statement that the trial would show Mr. Hopkins went to Walsh’s home the night she was killed "and things went too far."
Defense attorney James Ross in his opening statement suggested that Walsh’s estranged husband or a drifter she met at a bar that night could be suspects.
He suggested it was no surprise there was DNA evidence because his client was having an affair.
And he asked jurors to consider whether DNA that was present 34 years later could also have been present just three weeks after he ended the affair.
The women who testified today said they went to a bar called The Getaway around 10 p.m. Aug. 31 to be with Walsh because of her pending divorce. They described her as happy.
When the bar closed, Walsh and Ms. Farinacci went to a nearby Perkins restaurant, leaving about 4 a.m.
It is believed Walsh’s death occurred around 5 a.m.
But each woman trying to remember a night 34 years later had difficulties. Ms. Farinacci said, "I remember the incident but from decades ago it’s hard to remember the details."
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org.