Children of Whitehall man who fatally beat wife defend him at sentencing

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Joseph Manning's children still love him -- even after the Whitehall man beat their mother to death two years ago during what his attorney called a "psychotic break."

"He is not a bad or evil man," wrote Kevin Manning in a letter to the judge sentencing his 77-year-old father. "He is a man who made a grave mistake while not in his right mind."

"He has a kind, gentle heart, and he always strived to take care of and provide for his family," wrote his daughters, Mary Lee Modrak and Holly Lavelle.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Thomas E. Flaherty took those letters into consideration Friday as he sentenced Manning, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder in February.

Manning was ordered to serve six to 12 years in prison, with credit for more than two years already served.

Judge Flaherty recommended that he serve his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands, which specializes in caring for elderly inmates.

Defense attorney Charles LoPresti outlined for the court his client's health needs -- both mentally and physically.

Manning has a long history of depression dating to the 1950s and repeatedly contemplated and attempted suicide.

Mr. LoPresti said he never showed any violence against his wife of 49 years.

But on March 31, 2012, Manning was suicidal. According to court records, he had a knife and a pipe wrench and planned to kill himself in front of his wife.

When she attempted to stop him, they got in a fight, and he struck her in the head with the wrench. Manning told officials that he feared she would be brain dead, so he continued to beat her to death.

He then called 911 and awaited officers' arrival outside, armed with a knife. Manning said he wanted to commit "suicide by cop." Instead, he was struck by a Taser and taken into custody.

"Mr. Manning, from the first day, has expressed sadness and remorse. He wishes daily for his own death so he may end the constant sadness, regret and remorse he feels for causing his wife's death," Mr. LoPresti wrote in a court brief. "He apologizes every time he speaks to his children despite their repeated forgiveness."

Kevin Manning told Judge Flaherty that his father is a "gentle soul" who "wouldn't hurt a fly."

"I believe he was in a totally different mind-set when he murdered my mother," Kevin Manning wrote. "He loved and cared for her. They were best friends."

Paula Reed Ward: or 412-263-2620.

Paula Reed Ward:, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published May 9, 2014 1:36 PM


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