Former councilman imprisoned in Monaca killing to be released

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The former Bridgewater councilman who has been jailed since he was charged in January with the 1979 homicide of a Monaca woman was granted bond on Monday.

The ruling comes one week after a trial scheduled to begin at the Beaver County Courthouse for Gregory Scott Hopkins was postponed due to a dispute over the use of a report 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 the bail hearing, saying that the pending appeal could keep his client in the Beaver County 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 the 40-minute bail hearing.

A few hours after the hearing, Judge Knafelc issued an order setting the bond for Mr. Hopkins, who is 66, at $100,000, or $200,000 in property.

The conditions of the bond also require Mr. Hopkins to comply with electronic home monitoring, to surrender his passport, to remain at his residence and to meet regularly with a probation officer. Mr. Hopkins will be released after he meets with the Beaver County Adult Probation Department, the order said.

Monday's bail hearing -- and the order that Mr. Hopkins be released on bond -- was the latest chapter in a case that is decades old.

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 Monday, 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 Monday, 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 during the hearing Monday that Mr. Hopkins should not be granted bond, but that if it were granted, it should be set at $1 million, and that Mr. Hopkins should relinquish his U.S. passport and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

neigh_west

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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