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Indiana County man sobs as he pleads guilty to killing wife, 2 young girls

| Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 2:38 p.m.
An emotional Lorna Smail is consoled by her husband Ron during a press conference at the Indiana County Courthouse on Friday, December 7, 2012. They are the parents of Christine Beatty and grandparents of Amanda, 11, and Sara Beatty, 6, who were killed by their estranged husband and father Lewis Paul Beatty, 41, of Indiana County, who plead guilty of 3 counts of first-degree homicide and will serve life in prison for the killiings. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Lewis Paul Beatty, 41, of Indiana County, is escorted out of the Indiana County Courthouse where he plead guilty to 3 counts of first-degree homicide and will serve life in prison for the killiings of his two young daughters Sara, 6, and Amanda, 11, and estranged wife Christine Beatty. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

District Attorney Patrick Dougherty's mind goes to the pink socks that 6-year-old Sara Beatty was wearing when he thinks about the June night an Indiana County man killed his estranged wife and two daughters.

“Those pink socks will probably always be in my memory because that's basically all I could look at was her feet as she was lying there helpless,” Dougherty said on Friday. “This is one of the hardest cases I've ever been involved with.”

His comments were made in a news conference after a 20-minute hearing in which Lewis Paul Beatty, 41, was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the June 1 slayings.

Beatty pleaded guilty on Friday to three counts of first-degree homicide. In exchange, the district attorney took the death penalty off the table.

“He will never see the outside of a jail during his lifetime,” Dougherty said.

Wearing blue jail garb, Beatty stood before Judge Thomas Bianco and admitted killing Christine Beatty, 33; Amanda, 11, and Sara.

State police said Beatty strangled his daughter Sara as she played with Barbie dolls in their South Mahoning home, then cut her throat with a hunting knife.

When Amanda returned home from school, Beatty choked her before slashing her throat, police said.

After the killings, he drove to a bank in Marion Center where Christine Beatty worked. Lewis Beatty followed her to her East Mahoning home, strangled her and cut her throat.

He then set fire to that home as well as the family residence in South Mahoning, police said.

“This should've never happened,” Beatty said through tears during the hearing. ”I am very, very remorseful, and I'm sorry.”

Arson and animal cruelty charges were withdrawn by prosecutors as part of the agreement. Police said Beatty shot and killed three family pets.

Christine Beatty's parents, Ron and Lorna Smail, sat in on Dougherty's news conference but left halfway through when Lorna Smail became overwhelmed with emotion.

Dougherty and Christine Beatty's family spent about two weeks mulling over an offer made by the defense for Lewis Beatty to plead guilty. After coming to an agreement, Dougherty said, accepting the plea and taking the death penalty off the table will avoid a long process that would “revictimize the family every time the case is in court.”

“I believe that this outcome will ensure that their wishes are granted but also that justice has been served,” Dougherty said. “They could not continue not knowing what the outcome would be for another six months to a year.”

Beatty was treated by a family physician in November 2011 after suffering from the mental effects of his marriage disintegrating, public defender Fred Hummel said during a news conference.

Then in the spring, Beatty reported having suicidal and homicidal thoughts to a “local medical facility,” Hummel said.

After an hour of treatment, that facility discharged him, he said. The slayings occurred seven days later.

“Lewis tried to get help to keep him from losing control,” Hummel said. “He felt his world was closing in around him. He could not stop that. He tried, but he could not deal with it.”

After setting his South Mahoning home on fire, Beatty became trapped inside and was rescued by a neighbor, according to investigators. Beatty slit his wrists while inside, Hummel said.

He was treated in the hospital before being questioned by police.

“To this day, he is angry and he is disappointed that the fire that he set was discovered before his life ended,” Hummel said. “Lewis is going to be forever sorry for what he has done.”

Christine and Lewis Beatty were separated and had a verbal custody agreement, police have said. Sara was Lewis Beatty's biological daughter. He had adopted Amanda, who was Christine's biological daughter, police said.

The Beattys married in May 2005 and purchased the South Mahoning home in 2007, records show.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She canbe reached at 724-837-5374or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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