Former boyfriend found guilty in 1977 bludgeoning of Washington County girl
October 26, 2011 4:00 AM
Robert W. Urwin Jr.
By Michael A. Fuoco Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
More than 34 years after a pregnant 16-year-old Washington County girl was brutally beaten to death, a verdict was reached Tuesday in her killing.
On the fourth day of a non-jury trial, Washington County Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky found Robert W. Urwin Jr., 54, of Dunlevy, guilty of third-degree murder of his former girlfriend when he was a 20-year-old.
Mr. Urwin's conviction in the death of Mary Irene Gency, 16, of North Charleroi, elicited loud sobs from his wife, three children, mother and sisters.
"It will be all right," he said, trying to comfort them as he was escorted in handcuffs and leg shackles out of the courtroom and back to jail to await sentencing Dec. 20. He faces a prison sentence from 10 to 20 years, the sentencing guideline from 1977, when the crime was committed. Since then, the guideline has been doubled to 20 to 40 years.
Reaction to the verdict from Ms. Gency's relatives, who made up the other half of the crowded courtroom, was subdued.
Doris Gency, who was shocked when her daughter's former boyfriend was arrested in May 2010, said she "wasn't sure" how she felt about the verdict.
"It's with mixed emotions," she said quietly.
Ms. Gency's sister, Pam Nichols of Fallowfield, noted that even with a verdict concluding a murder case of more than three decades, "The sad part is that all the families in the case lose."
Washington County District Attorney Steven Toprani, whose assistant Chad Schneider prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with the verdict in a case that had "haunted not only the Gency family but their community."
"[Ms. Gency's] young life was cut short in a tragic and horrific manner, and hopefully the family and community will take a degree of comfort from what transpired [Tuesday]," he said.
Ms. Gency's nude, frozen body was found in a wooded area in Fallowfield six days after she disappeared the night of Feb. 13, 1977. An autopsy determined she died from multiple skull fractures inflicted by a heavy object and was about six weeks pregnant.
Shortly thereafter, state police arrested David Davoli, 19, of Charleroi but charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
The case went cold for more than three decades. But using science not available in 1977, analysts identified DNA on Ms. Gency's underwear, found near her body, as that of both Mr. Davoli and Mr. Urwin and on her blue jeans, found a distance away, as that of Mr. Urwin.
State police arrested both men in May 2010. But as his murder trial approached, Mr. Davoli agreed to testify against his boyhood friend Mr. Urwin and pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. In exchange, the prosecution will recommend he receive a two- to four-year sentence.
Mr. Davoli, now 54, of Charleroi, testified that Mr. Urwin, who had recently broken up with Ms. Gency, grabbed a tool from the trunk of Mr. Davoli's car and began beating her in the head and chased her over an embankment after the trio smoked marijuana near the Charleroi Sportsman's Club and both men had sex with her.
Ms. Gency's brother, Stephen Gency, 53, of Carroll, who grew up with both men, said he disagreed with the relatively short sentence Mr. Davoli will receive, because "I believe David Davoli had a lot to do with it."
A sobbing Sheila Urwin said her husband of nearly 20 years "is not a murderer" and the wrong man had been convicted.
Defense attorney Joseph C. Francis said: "for [Mr. Davoli's] word to be fully trusted and to be relied upon to sustain this conviction is a little startling."
Mr. Toprani, who conceded the case has been "a troubling one, a challenging one," noted the DA's office had consulted with the Gency family before the plea bargain. He said the deal was necessary to obtain "a central piece of our case."