Former Bridgewater councilman and suspect in 1979 cold case granted bond

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A Beaver County judge granted bond today to a former Bridgewater councilman who has been held in the Beaver County Jail since January, when he was charged in the 1979 homicide of a Monaca woman.

A trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 26 in the Beaver County Courthouse for Gregory Scott Hopkins, 66, but was postponed due to a dispute over the use of a report completed by forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht.

Common Pleas Judge Harry E. Knafelc, in an opinion issued Nov. 5, ruled that Dr. Wecht's account was inadmissible because it lacked scientific basis. The Beaver County district attorney's office appealed the decision to the state Superior Court on Nov. 14.

James Ross, the Ambridge lawyer who represents Mr. Hopkins, called for today's bail hearing, saying that the pending appeal could keep his client in jail for another year, infringing on Mr. Hopkins' right to a speedy trial.

"This is a case where, on Nov. 26, the defendant was ready to pick a jury and go to trial," Mr. Ross argued to Judge Knafelc at the start of today's 40-minute bail hearing.

A few hours after the hearing, Judge Knafelc issued an order setting the bond for Mr. Hopkins at $100,000 and requiring him to comply with electronic monitoring.

He will be released from jail pending a meeting with a court probation officer, Judge Knafelc's office said.

Today's bail hearing was the latest chapter in a case that dates back decades.

Catherine Janet Walsh, 23, who was divorced and living alone, was found strangled in the bedroom of her first-floor duplex on Sept. 1, 1979. More than three decades later, DNA evidence found in seminal fluid discovered at the scene was matched to a sample taken from Mr. Hopkins.

Mr. Hopkins has entered a plea of not guilty, and Mr. Ross has argued in court that Mr. Hopkins' DNA should have been at the scene since he and Walsh were having an affair that ended the summer before her death.

Dr. Wecht's report contends that the location of the DNA places Mr. Hopkins on the bed on top of Walsh at or around the time of her death.

At the hearing today, Mr. Hopkins, wearing handcuffs and leg shackles, testified for about eight minutes, answering questions about the value of about a dozen properties he owns in and around Beaver County, his U.S. passport, and his Mexico time share that he visits a few times each year.

Walsh's brother, Francesco Caltieri of Somerset, Ohio, also testified today, saying his family worried that Mr. Hopkins, if released, posed a "very serious flight risk," as well as potential danger to himself and others.

A judge ruled in February that Mr. Hopkins' case involved first-degree murder, a non-bailable offense.

Beaver County Assistant District Attorney Frank Martocci said today that if Mr. Hopkins were granted bond, it should be set at $1 million, and that Mr. Hopkins should relinquish his U.S. passport and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

region - neigh_west

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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