BEDFORD, Pa. -- A jury voted last night to spare the life of Joseph Clark, who kidnapped and murdered a young mother eight years ago.
The seven men and five women on the jury instead sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Mr. Clark, 48, mouthed the words "thank you" to jurors after the foreman read the verdict. His mother, sister and fiancee showed no reaction.
Relatives of his victim, 25-year-old Holly Notestine, also were in the courtroom. Ron Grubb, Ms. Notestine's boyfriend and the father of her two children, said he was heartened by the fact that Mr. Clark will never get out of prison.
"We're satisfied. He will never hurt anybody else again," Mr. Grubb said.
Even if Mr. Clark received a death sentence, he would have had 25 years of appeals, Mr. Grubb said.
Ms. Notestine's daughter, Chastity Grubb, 14, did not want to speak, but she nodded in agreement with her father's assessment of the verdict.
Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins argued for a death sentence because he said Mr. Clark killed Ms. Notestine while committing a second felony -- kidnapping. He also told jurors that Mr. Clark tortured her by inflicting at least 17 stab wounds.
But the jurors, imported from Dauphin County, decided on a life sentence on the basis of Mr. Clark's claims that he was physically and emotionally abused as a boy. His lawyer, Thomas Crawford, also contended that Mr. Clark suffered from "a generalized mental dysfunction."
A psychologist for the defense, Marc Tabackman, testified that Mr. Clark's life changed forever at age 12 when his father died of a heart attack. He said Mr. Clark fell into depression and became addicted to alcohol, marijuana and smokeless tobacco.
Dr. Tabackman also said Mr. Clark was paddled regularly by an abusive sixth-grade teacher and that he struggled with obesity and poor self-esteem. Mr. Clark weighed 200 pounds at age 12 and 350 pounds as an adult. Ms. Notestine, a dairy farmer and homemaker, weighed just 95 pounds the night Mr. Clark overpowered her.
Prosecutors have suggested that the motive for the kidnapping was a sexual assault.
In court last night, Mr. Clark looked trim in a tan suit. He lost 100 pounds while jailed for the last three years awaiting his trial.
Mr. Higgins said his goal was to get Mr. Clark out of free society, and he accomplished that by obtaining a first-degree murder conviction against him.
Mr. Higgins said Mr. Clark had choices, and the one he made was to take a young woman's life. Mr. Clark received mercy from 12 jurors, but he alone decided the fate of Ms. Notestine, Mr. Higgins said.
"It was his choice to kill her. Joseph William Clark and Joseph William Clark alone determined what would happen to Holly Notestine."
Milan Simonich can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1956.