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Top state court upholds sentence in elderly Ligonier man's murder

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled the nearly 15-year sentence being served by a former Unity man convicted of killing a Ligonier businessman is justified.

In an eight-page ruling made public on Wednesday, the appeals court determined that Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell had proper grounds to send Anthony Blaine Mowry to prison for at least 14 years and nine months. Mowry will serve a maximum of 32 years and six months in prison for the Sept. 17, 2008, slaying of William McMichael Jones.

Jones, 75, a former president of the Tribune-Review Publishing Co., is a descendant of the founder of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.

Mowry, now 22, was convicted two years ago of voluntary manslaughter.

After a consensual sexual encounter in Jones' bedroom, Mowry attacked the elderly man with his fists, police said. Mowry then bludgeoned Jones with brass candlesticks and weighted chimes from a grandfather clock, stabbed and slashed him 26 times with a carving knife and meat cleaver, then pelted him with eggs. Mowry set fire to the home and fled in Jones' Cadillac, police said.

During the trial, the prosecution contended Mowry planned the murder and should be convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

The jury found Mowry guilty of a lesser offense, siding with the defense's argument that Mowry killed Jones in a fit of rage after the sexual encounter.

The defense argued that in deciding the sentence, Bell did not account for Mowry's age — he was 18 at the time of the killing — and his claim that Jones sexually abused him as a child.

Bell abused his discretion and imposed a sentence that exceeded state guidelines, according to the defense, which maintained Mowry's sentence is at least 2 12 years too long.

Superior Court judges John Musmanno and Robert Colville rejected that argument, saying the transcript from the March 2011 sentencing hearing specifically refers to comments Bell made acknowledging Mowry's age and mental condition.

“Moreover, the sentencing transcript makes plain that the court considered the foregoing facts as they related to the gravity of the offenses, the defendant's rehabilitative needs, the need to protect the public and the appropriateness of the sentencing guidelines,” Colville wrote for the Superior Court.

Defense attorney Dante Bertani did not return a call seeking comment about the ruling.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293.

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