Families reeling following arrests in '77 killing

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In the small-town ethos of the Charleroi area, it has been impossible for Doris Gency to avoid reminders of the brutal 1977 killing of her 16-year-old daughter, Mary Irene.

Over the years, it was painful for her to catch sight in a supermarket or elsewhere of David Davoli, the now-53-year-old Charleroi man who as a 19-year-old was charged in the slaying of the North Charleroi girl only to have the case tossed out for lack of evidence.

And for more than three decades, there were reminders of her daughter, but more welcome ones, when she would run into Robert W. Urwin Jr., 53, of Dunlevy, who had been her daughter's then-20-year-old boyfriend, and members of his family, all of whom were friends of hers.

On Monday, she got what she wanted -- Mr. Davoli's re-arrest in the case -- and what she never expected -- the charging of Mr. Urwin as well.

"I'm so happy they got him again," she said of Mr. Davoli, "but I'm very upset that [Mr. Urwin] is involved.

"That was her boyfriend. She loved him.

"I didn't want it to be him but with the evidence they say they have ... I have to accept that.

"I have been wishing and hoping and praying that before I left this earth we would have closure and now I hope we will."

As for Mr. Urwin's mother and sisters, who said they considered Mary Gency as one of their family, the never-healed wounds of the North Charleroi girl's death were rubbed raw by the allegation -- which they say is patently false -- that her boyfriend was also one of her killers.

"It's like repeating 1977 only worse," said Belinda Urwin, Mr. Urwin's sister.

Indeed, Ms. Urwin and other members of Mr. Urwin's family said through their tears on Tuesday that he was devastated by the death, and even as he went on with his life after the killing he never forgot Ms. Gency.

He regularly reported to state police whatever rumors he heard about the case, they said.

"He loved her. We all loved her. He never let it go. He said he wanted to find out who killed her before he died," said another sister, Ruthie Urwin.

"She was like a daughter to me," said Mr. Urwin's mother, Wanda, who visited her son in jail Tuesday. "He said, 'They're going to be sorry. I did not do this. I did not kill her.' "

Mr. Urwin's wife, Sheila, added, "He's innocent. I'm standing behind my husband 100 percent.

"He's not a liar and he's certainly not a murderer. He's very much a Christian," said Mrs. Urwin, who with Mr. Urwin has a 16-year-old daughter.

Mr. Urwin, a drywall installer until he was injured in an accident two years ago when the truck in which he was riding was hit by a train, also has two sons, ages 31 and 29, from a previous relationship.

Ms. Gency, a sophomore at Charleroi Area High School, disappeared Feb. 13, 1977, when she left home after dinner.

She had called a girlfriend to say she would meet her at a Charleroi Isaly's about 8 p.m., but Ms. Gency was gone when she arrived.

Two brothers spotting deer discovered her body six days later.

An autopsy determined she died from multiple skull fractures inflicted by a heavy object and had been raped. She was six weeks pregnant, the autopsy revealed.

Mr. Urwin and Mr. Davoli, who grew up across the street from each other, were longtime friends, but all of that changed in July 1977 when Mr. Davoli was charged with killing Ms. Gency.

The primary evidence was testimony from some youths who said they saw Ms. Gency get into Mr. Davoli's car in front of Isaly's on the night she disappeared.

Three weeks later, a judge released Mr. Davoli, saying there was not enough evidence to hold him for trial.

He noted that the charges could be refiled if more evidence came to light.

Mr. Davoli, who married and became a father, stayed in Charleroi but often was the subject of sidelong looks, including those from the Gency and Urwin families. Over the years, there were tensions between Mr. Urwin and Mr. Davoli, Mr. Urwin's family said, but it never amounted to any confrontations.

In the meantime, the Gency and Urwin families remained friends, which made Mr. Urwin's arrest Monday that much more painful for both.

The Urwin family turned out in force Monday in front of the office of Charleroi District Judge Larry W. Hopkins as the suspects were taken there for arraignment.

When Mr. Urwin arrived, they yelled, "We love you, Bobby! Keep your head up! You're innocent!"

When Mr. Davoli arrived, they screamed, "You're a murderer! It's about time you got caught!"

State police said the arrests were made because of significant advances in DNA technology, which made it possible to match genetic material on Ms. Gency's underwear to both suspects and on her pants to Mr. Urwin.

His family said the presence of Mr. Urwin's DNA wasn't surprising given that Mr. Urwin and Ms. Gency were a couple. They said Mr. Urwin was confused and mistaken when he told state police he had not had sexual relations with her in at least a month before her disappearance.

As for a witness now placing Mr. Urwin in Mr. Davoli's car with Ms. Gency, Mr. Urwin's family said that was impossible because he had been at a keg party in North Charleroi at that time.

Ruthie Urwin said Mr. Davoli did give Mr. Urwin a ride home later that night.

For Ms. Gency's sister, Pam Nichols of Fallowfield, the arrests were shocking after such a long time, bringing her both relief and "hesitation."

"Now the question is 'Is this going to stick, is this really happening to the point there is enough evidence to convict?' " she said.

The arrests mean so much to the family after all these years, she said.

"For my sister, this is not going to bring her back, and that's the really sad part. But maybe she can rest in peace and maybe we can move on knowing that we have that closure."

Michael A. Fuoco: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.


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