Former Bridgewater councilman sentenced to prison in 1979 murder
Her husband showed photos from their high school prom. Her brother told her convicted killer he couldn't forgive him.
Family and friends of Catherine Janet Walsh cried tears of joy and relief as a Beaver County judge sent Gregory Scott Hopkins to prison.
Walsh was found bound and strangled in her Monaca apartment in September 1979. On Wednesday, Hopkins, a former Bridgewater councilman, was sentenced to eight to 16 years in prison for her death.
“We just put it in God's hands, and at this point, we're just happy to get the justice that was needed for so long,” said Jacque Cunning, the daughter of Scott Walsh, who was married but separated from Janet when she died.
Hopkins, 67, was convicted in November of third-degree murder. He maintained his innocence.
“I respect the court's decision. I respect the court's sentence. We don't agree with it,” said Chad Bowers, Hopkins' defense attorney.
Janet Walsh was 23 when killed. Beaver County Assistant Chief Detective Andrew Gall, then a 25-year-old junior patrolman with the Monaca Police Department, was the first officer on the scene. Gall, 59, pursued the case and sat with the Walsh family.
“She just is your all-American girl ... that should have lived a long time and be a grandmother by now,” Gall said.
Scott Walsh spoke at the sentencing, showing the judge photos of them at their prom. The two were high school sweethearts and separated shortly before Janet Walsh was killed, Gall said.
“My dad finally got that day today where he could speak up for Janet,” Cunning said.
Cunning, 32, lives in Texas and did not attend the sentencing but stayed in contact with family, she said.
Janet Walsh's brother, Francesco Caltieri, addressed Hopkins directly, saying he could not yet forgive him and “would ask God to burn him in hell,” Gall said.
“Hopkins didn't flinch,” Gall said.
Hopkins was charged in 2012 after DNA analysis found his previously undetected DNA on her nightgown, a bedsheet and the rope binding her hands. He has acknowledged having an affair with Walsh but denied killing her.
Two people spoke on behalf of Hopkins, recalling times the man showed kindness to them, Gall said.
In a prepared statement given to the judge, Hopkins expressed sorrow for the family's loss but insisted he did not kill her, Bowers said.
The Beaver County district attorney did not return calls for comment.
Ligonier attorney Adam Cogan will handle an appeal for Hopkins that will focus on trial testimony from Dr. Mark Perlin, a DNA expert used by the defense.
“Dr. Perlin testified that it was an impossible scientific conclusion to come to that the presence of the defendant's DNA meant anything,” Cogan said.
During the trial, Perlin disputed testimony from prosecution witness Dr. Cyril Wecht that the most likely scenario was that Hopkins' DNA was deposited in the moments before or while he strangled Walsh.
“This is not a difference of opinions. It's that it's an improper conclusion to draw concerning DNA,” Cogan said.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed.