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South Fayette man guilty of murdering wife, torching house

| Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 5:18 p.m.

An Allegheny County jury deliberated about an hour Tuesday before finding a South Fayette man guilty of first-degree murder for beating and stabbing his wife to death during an argument over a televised Pittsburgh Penguins game.

Robert Abrams, 42, stood stoically as the jury foreman read the verdict, which included convictions of arson, abuse of a corpse and two counts of reckless endangerment for killing Jeanette Abrams, 44, and setting their house ablaze April 23, 2010. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole when he is sentenced.

Abrams' attorney Robert Foreman argued to the jury of six men and six women that Abrams' confession to police while in UPMC Mercy was invalid because of the pain-killing medication he took for his burns.

“We challenged the prosecution's case that was based on the confession,” Foreman said.

Deputy District Attorney David Spurgeon told the jury that Abrams beat his wife in the head with a hammer and then stabbed her during an argument over the late hour of the Penguins' triple-overtime playoff loss earlier that night on April 22 and set their home on fire. Spurgeon said the pair argued after she complained he had time to watch the game but not to get a job.

County police Detective Lewis Ferguson testified that Abrams was alert and coherent at the hospital when he told police about the argument. He said after he stabbed her he lit a dog toy on fire and used it to set the house on fire. He then ran to a neighbor's house and asked the neighbor to call 911.

The trial started Monday before Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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