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Bridgewater contractor eligible for bail in 1979 homicide

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 5:16 p.m.

A judge in Beaver County granted bail on Monday to a former Bridgewater councilman awaiting trial on charges he killed his lover more than 30 years ago.

Gregory Scott Hopkins, 66, a building contractor, has been jailed since January, when he was charged with homicide when DNA evidence linked him to the slaying of Catherine Janet Walsh, 23, of Monaca.

Her father found her in her bed, bound and strangled with a bandana, on Sept. 1, 1979.

Hopkins proclaimed his innocence and his attorney, James Ross, suggested Walsh died during a consensual but dangerous sex act.

Common Pleas Judge Harry E. Knafelc granted a defense motion to set bail at $100,000 in cash or bond or $200,000 in property.

Hopkins could be released from the Beaver County Prison as early as Tuesday, Ross said.

“I'm sure he's going to be elated and relieved to be out of jail and home with his wife,” Ross said.

Prosecutors argued that Hopkins should remain in jail until trial.

“I don't think he should be out of jail,” said Walsh's father, Peter Joseph Caltury Sr., who did not attend Monday's hearing because of an illness.

People charged with homicide in Pennsylvania are generally denied bail, but Ross argued that Hopkins' trial has been delayed only because the district attorney's office has filed an appeal with state Superior Court, which could take a year to hear the case and issue a ruling.

The trial was scheduled to begin last week, but Knafelc postponed it because prosecutors appealed his decision to suppress a report on the case by pathologist Cyril H. Wecht.

Ross argued that Wecht's report was too vague and speculative to be used, and Knafelc agreed, ruling that prosecutors could not use it or call Wecht as an expert witness.

As part of his conditions for release, Hopkins must turn over any weapons he owns to the sheriff's department and surrender his passport to probation officers.

He also must not leave his home except to meet with his probation officer, and he is subject to electronic monitoring.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at mhasch@tribweb.com.

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