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Hempfield man gets life in prison for killing girlfriend during fight over spilled noodles

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Kruel

Keith Kruel had nothing to say in court Thursday as he was sentenced to serve life in prison for killing his live-in girlfriend as they fought over a bowl of spilled noodles.

Following a week-long jury trial in February, Kruel, 39, was convicted of first-degree murder for the Nov. 13, 2011, beating and stomping death of 40-year-old Tina Marie Ohler.

Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec imposed the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

During the trial, prosecutors said Ohler had been in a nine-year abusive relationship with Kruel.

On the night of the murder, they returned to their Hempfield home from a night of drinking in bars. The couple fought over a bowl of Ramen noodles that Ohler threw to the floor when Kruel refused to eat them, according to the prosecution.

Kruel first told police he found Ohler dead when he awoke the next morning, but he later confessed to slamming her head off a wall or door jamb, kicking her head “like a football” and stomping on her back, according to trial testimony.

The defense admitted that Kruel killed Ohler but argued that her death resulted from a reckless act and warranted conviction to a lesser offense, such as involuntary manslaughter.

In court on Thursday, Jennifer Gearhart, victim advocate for Westmoreland County, read a letter from Ohler's 13-year-old daughter, Courtney.

“My whole family's lives are shattered. Not a day goes by I don't think about her,” the girl wrote. “No one should be 13 and have to go through this. I miss her every day and every night. Just because he's serving time in prison doesn't take away the pain we feel.”

Kruel will appeal his conviction, said defense attorney L.A. Smith.

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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