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Jury chosen for Hempfield man charged with killing girlfriend over spilled noodles

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Kruel

A Westmoreland County jury will begin hearing testimony on Tuesday in the first-degree murder trial of a Hempfield man charged with killing his girlfriend over a bowl of spilled noodles.

Keith Kruel, 39, on Nov. 11, 2011, pushed 40-year-old Tina Ohler's head off a door frame, then kicked and punched her in the face after she fell to the floor, prosecutors contend.

After a night of drinking at several bars, police said, Kruel and Ohler returned home. Police contend Kruel passed out on a couch while Ohler cooked noodles.

According to court records, police said the physical altercation started when Ohler threw a bowl of noodles at Kruel when he refused to eat his nighttime snack because he was no longer hungry.

Kruel maintained he first hit his girlfriend when she refused to clean up the spilled noodles, police said.

Prosecutors will push for a first-degree murder conviction, Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanagan said on Monday. No plea deals have been tendered, Flanagan said.

“The facts support us pursuing a first-degree murder charge,” Flanagan said. “The commonwealth has been pretty singular in its thoughts.”

Kruel is being represented by the county's public defender's office. Attorney L.A. Smith declined to comment on Kruel's defense.

Jurors were selected on Monday to hear the case, which is expected to take about a week before Judge John E. Blahovec.

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

Kruel is listed on the state's Megan's Law directory for sex offenders. According to court records, he was convicted in 2007 for having sex with an underage girl.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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