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Hempfield man accused of killing girlfriend loses bid to have trial delayed

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Allen Kruel of Hempfield Twp.,allegedly beat to death his girlfriend. Police said Tina Marie Ohler, 40, died Sunday of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries. (Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review) SLUG: Ohler1115 Photo for Paul Pierce story

A Hempfield man accused of beating his girlfriend to death during an argument over spilled noodles will stand trial on Monday, a Westmoreland County judge has ruled.

Keith Allen Kruel, 39, of 8012 Elkart St., Wendel, asked Judge John Blahovec on Monday afternoon to delay his criminal homicide trial.

Kruel allegedly killed Tina Marie Ohler, 40, in November 2011 in the apartment they shared.

“I'd like more time, because my life might be in jeopardy,” Kruel said during a status conference on his case. “It's hard for me to understand some words because I'm not educated.”

Kruel said that one of his defense attorneys, L.A. Smith, represented Ohler in a 2005 case where both were accused of luring a teenage girl to their home and plying her with alcohol so Kruel could have sex with her. Ohler, who pleaded guilty to corruption of minors, said she helped lure the girl out of fear of Kruel.

Kruel believed Smith's prior defense of the victim is a conflict of interest.

Blahovec said he believed there was no conflict and, in fact, Smith's knowledge of the victim's history might help Kruel.

“He has been your attorney since this started, and you raise it now,” Blahovec said. “He's been your attorney all along. ... There's nothing here that could hurt you.”

Blahovec said attorneys from both sides have met throughout the case with each other and with him to keep things on track.

“If I had to sit down and draw up a way that a case would be presented, this would be it,” Blahovec said in denying Kruel's request to delay the trial.

Jury selection in Kruel's case is set to begin on Monday. Attorneys expect it to last a week.

The prosecution is expected to present evidence that Kruel and Ohler argued after a night of bar-hopping.

Kruel had passed out on the couch as Ohler was cooking noodles. Ohler threw the noodles after she awakened Kruel to eat and he told her he was no longer hungry.

Kruel allegedly pushed Ohler when she refused to clean up the mess, police said.

Kruel admitted to police that Ohler struck her head or face on the door frame when he pushed her. He said she fell to the floor, and he kicked her in the face and chest, police allege.

Kruel said he slept on the living room couch, and Ohler was dead when he woke up, according to police.

The couple had a history of domestic disputes during their 10-year relationship, police and Ohler's family members have said.

Ohler's face had to be reconstructed after a beating from Kruel in 2010, family members have said.

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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