Jury in 1979 Beaver County killing sent home and will resume deliberations Friday

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It took only a second or two for Frank Martocci, assistant district attorney for Beaver County, to walk across the courtroom Thursday and point at Gregory Scott Hopkins, the man he said killed Catherine Janet Walsh.

The distance, between Walsh's 1979 death and the trial of her alleged killer, was much, much longer.

"Thirty-four years have gone by," Mr. Martocci told a Beaver County jury Thursday morning during his 80-minute closing argument, as he pointed at Mr. Hopkins, 67, a former Bridgewater councilman. "Thirty-four years he has lived a lie. Thirty-four years has now caught up to him. Science has caught up to him."

Mr. Martocci said that in the early hours of Sept. 1, 1979, Mr. Hopkins left the Center home where his two friends and girlfriend slept and drove to Walsh's Monaca home, where he tightly bound a rope around her hands and a handkerchief around her neck. Straddling her as she lay on her bed, he tightly pulled the handkerchief, strangling her, and ejaculated on her back, he said.

Mr. Hopkins, who has maintained his innocence, was charged in the death of Walsh, 23, in January 2012 after DNA matching his was found on the tie around her hands, the back of her nightshirt and the sheet covering her.

"All the evidence is there that proves it," Mr. Martocci said, as he told the jury that, after 34 years, justice must catch up to Mr. Hopkins.

"He has to be held accountable for what he did then," Mr. Martocci said.

The jury received the case at 1 p.m. Thursday. Judge Harry E. Knafelc charged the jury of five men and seven women with deciding unanimously whether Mr. Hopkins is guilty, or not guilty, of first degree homicide, third degree homicide, or involuntary or voluntary manslaughter.

They must weigh testimony given over the course of seven days, by witnesses ranging from the three people who said they were with Mr. Hopkins the night of Walsh's death, to the Monaca patrolman who was first to the scene in 1979, to two men who had also been considered as suspects, to forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht and DNA expert Mark Perlin.

And they must consider the closing arguments of Mr. Hopkins' attorney, James Ross, who is trying his last case before becoming a Common Pleas judge in the new year.

From the beginning of the trial, Mr. Ross has argued that Mr. Hopkins' DNA was found where it was because his client had sex with Walsh in her bedroom a few times in the summer before her death.

In closing arguments that lasted about an hour Thursday, Mr. Ross told the jury there were no visible semen stains in 1979 and no sign of recent sexual activity, and called it a "travesty of justice," that in the past three years, investigators focused primarily on discovering semen.

"All they have is sperm," he said. "Sperm that should have been there."

His client had no motive, he said.

"Why would a man kill a woman who was giving him free sex that nobody knew about?" he asked.

Mr. Hopkins, who testified Tuesday, denied involvement in Walsh's death. He said he had sex with her, weeks earlier, during a time when he was then dating a woman who would become his second wife.

"He's no saint," Mr. Ross said. "He told you that. He was a womanizer. Does that make him a murderer?"

That will be up to the jury to decide. They deliberated for four hours Thursday, breaking two hours in to ask the judge if they could see the top sheet. Judge Knafelc allowed them to take the sheet, from which DNA matching Mr. Hopkins was recovered, back to the deliberation room.

They were released for the day shortly after 5 p.m., with Judge Knafelc denying their second request that they be allowed to take their notebooks used during the trial home with them. They will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. today.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published November 21, 2013 2:19 PM


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