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Somerset Co. man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 10:21 a.m.

Somerset County

Meyersdale

Man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter

A Meyersdale man avoided a potential life sentence under a plea agreement Wednesday when he agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the choking death of his ex-girlfriend in 2012.

Jonathan Beal, 24, of Meyersdale also pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence for burying the body of 19-year-old Justine Jackson near the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail outside Meyersdale.

Her remains were found Nov. 11, nearly two months after the date Beal acknowledged killing her — Sept. 14, 2012.

The potential maximum prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 10 to 20 years. Beal, who originally was charged with murder, could have faced a mandatory life sentence if he were convicted of first-degree murder

Somerset County public defender Steve Miller said Beal didn't mean to kill Jackson when they argued about whether to reconcile, according to The Associated Press. Miller says Beal didn't want to resume their relationship.

District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said prosecutors agreed to the lesser charge because they weren't sure they could prove Beal intended to kill, according to wire reports.

Judge John Cascio ordered a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled sentencing at 9 a.m. Nov. 26.

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