Joseph Clark lost 100 pounds before his murder trial, but jurors still believed he was the "big fat man" who abducted and killed a Bedford County woman eight years ago.
They convicted Mr. Clark yesterday of first-degree murder, kidnapping and arson in the killing of Holly Notestine. Prosecutors said he set fire to his car to destroy evidence soon after abducting Ms. Notestine, 25, and stabbing her 17 times.
After two hours of deliberating today, the jury decided Mr. Clark, 48, should spend the rest of his life in prison.
"This is a man we believe is deserving of death under Pennsylvania law," Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins said in an interview.
Joyce Sheetz, Ms. Notestine's sister-in-law, said she also wanted a death sentence.
"We all know he did it. We're happy it was proven in court this time," she said.
This was Mr. Clark's second trial. The first ended in a mistrial in February because jurors could not reach a verdict after six days of deliberations.
In the retrial, a jury from Dauphin County deliberated about 12 hours over three days before finding Mr. Clark guilty of all charges.
He weighed more than 300 pounds when the abduction and murder occurred on April 30, 2000. Ms. Notestine's son, Logan Grubb, then 4 years old, told police he saw the kidnapper hit his mother, then force her into a car.
Logan said the attacker was big and fat, with dark hair on top of his head and white sideburns. His description matched Mr. Clark.
State police said Logan also referred to Mr. Clark by his nickname on the night of the crime. He told his older sister, Chastity, "'Tiny' took Mommy."
Six hours after Ms. Notestine disappeared, state police headed to Mr. Clark's farmhouse to interview him. They found Mr. Clark's car on fire and its interior destroyed. Police said the fire was arson.
Meanwhile, police pulled a tire print from the soft dirt of the dairy farm where Ms. Notestine lived with her children and their father, Ron Grubb. Police said the print matched one tire on Mr. Clark's 1985 Oldsmobile.
Still, the investigation stalled because police had no body. They finally found Ms. Notestine's skeletal remains in 2004. A forensic anthropologist said damage to her ribs and arms indicated she had been stabbed repeatedly.
Mr. Clark, an ironworker who lived with his mother, testified for more than a day. He readily admitted visiting the dairy farm on numerous occasions because of his lifelong friendship with Ron Grubb. He said he spoke to Ms. Notestine only twice and never harmed her.
Calm when questioned by his own lawyer, Mr. Clark became angry and sarcastic under cross-examination by the district attorney. In one instance, Mr. Higgins asked Mr. Clark why he cut off all contact with Ron Grubb after Ms. Notestine vanished.
"C'mon, you're a smart guy," Mr. Clark said. ... "You know I was told by my lawyer not to go anywhere near the Grubb farm."
Defense attorney Thomas Crawford offered jurors an alternate theory of the crime, saying a convicted bank robber named David Lucas had confessed to killing Ms. Notestine.
Mr. Lucas, 34, took the witness stand but would not answer questions about the murder, even after he received immunity from prosecution.
In contrast, Mr. Clark spoke at length, telling jurors he was a Christian and "a good guy." At that point, Mr. Higgins said Mr. Clark was on the verge of opening the door to questions about his criminal history.
Mr. Clark had a series of convictions involving violence toward women, but Bedford County President Judge Daniel Howsare would not allow prosecutors to tell the jury about them during the first phase of the trial.
Court records show that a judge in Dade County, Fla., placed Mr. Clark on probation in 1983 for exposing himself to a woman. He served three years in a Georgia jail starting in 1987 for aggravated assault on a woman. Then, in 1994, Mr. Clark served a year in a Fairfax County, Va., jail for sexual battery.
Testimony in the penalty phase should conclude today, and the jury will begin deliberating on whether Mr. Clark should live or die.
Milan Simonich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1956.