Family cheers speedy verdict of 1st-degree murder in Hempfield woman's beating death
Jurors wasted no time Friday afternoon before finding a Hempfield man guilty of first-degree murder for the beating death of his girlfriend.
The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated just one hour over lunch before they convicted 39-year-old Keith Kruel following three days testimony in his murder trial.
Family members of Tina Marie Ohler cheered when the jury foreman read the verdict.
Ohler, 40, was beaten and kicked to death by Kruel at the couple's Hempfield home on Nov. 13, 2011.
“I'm just glad he's in for life and no one else will get hurt,” said Ohler's mother, Noreen Wolfe, as she choked back tears while leaving the courtroom.
As a result of his conviction, Kruel faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will be formally sentenced in about two months by Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec.
Prosecutors said Ohler had been in a nine-year abusive relationship with Kruel that ended with her death after a night of drinking at local bars.
They two returned home and fought over a bowl of Ramen noodles that Ohler threw to the ground after Kruel refused to eat them, according to the prosecution.
Kruel gave a series of statements to police in which he described the fight. He first denied any involvement and claimed he found Ohler dead when he awoke the next morning.
Later, Kruel confessed to slamming Ohler's head off a wall or door jamb, kicking her head “like a football” and stomping on her back.
In his closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan told jurors that Kruel clearly intended to kill his girlfriend.
“The actions of Keith Kruel are the best interpreters of his thoughts,” Flanigan said.
He told jurors that Kruel not only intended to kill Ohler, but that he attempted to cover up the crime by scrubbing blood from the walls and floor and vacuuming debris that included the cooked instant noodles.
Earlier Friday, Ohler's former neighbors and family members testified she had been subject to abuse by Kruel dating back to 2002.
Kruel was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault against Ohler in 2002, according to police witnesses.
Excela Health Westmoreland emergency room Dr. William Jenkins testified Ohler suffered substantial facial fractures, broken ribs and a collapsed lung in that incident.
Flanigan told jurors that in 2005, Ohler obtained a protection from abuse order against Kruel following a violent fight.
Ohler's former husband testified that Kruel beat Ohler in 2006.
The defense presented no evidence during the trial and Kruel did not testify on his own behalf.
Defense attorney Anthony Bompiani asked jurors to find Kruel guilty of a lesser offense, involuntary manslaughter.
Bompiani said jurors should have reasonable doubt as to Kruel's intentions.
“He wasn't covering up. It was the fact he genuinely didn't remember what happened at that time,” Bompiani said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Westmoreland County settles with fired public defender
- Rostraver Democrat aims for 1 of 3 open spots on Westmoreland County bench
- Endowment of $3.49B makes University of Pittsburgh 25th richest in U.S.
- New Alexandria tree trimmer pleads guilty to fraud
- Braddock man held for trial in Jeannette assault, robbery
- Three injured in two-vehicle accident on Arona Road in Hempfield
- Woman pays $178 fine for Westmoreland courthouse conduct
- Suspect in West Newton burglary sought, alleged accomplice arrested
- Krieger to seek Westmoreland County Common Pleas judgeship
- Coal truck, another hauling beer crash on Route 22
- Veterans Court in session in Westmoreland for first time