Unity man's guilty plea stands in 1992 Westmoreland County killing
A Westmoreland County judge has rejected the bid of a Unity man to withdraw his guilty plea to third-degree murder in the slaying of his sister's boyfriend more than two decades ago.
Judge Al Bell, in a 24-page opinion issued on Wednesday, ruled there was no evidence to substantiate claims from Robert Daniels that he received improper legal advice to plead guilty last year.
Daniels, 44, pleaded guilty to the 1992 murder of 18-year-old Curtis Eutsey and is serving a prison sentence of eight to 16 years.
Scavengers looking for scrap metal in a secluded Mt. Pleasant field found Eutsey's remains in 2010.
Eutsey, who was last seen walking from his girlfriend's home, was killed between April 1, 1990, and Nov. 26, 1992, according to the prosecution.
Daniels contended he should not have been advised by public defenders Chris Huffman and Patrice DiPietro to plead guilty because there was insufficient evidence to prove that a murder occurred.
“... The totality of the same evidence might well have been sufficient to support a guilty verdict for the offense of murder of the first degree, which would have resulted in the petitioner serving a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Bell wrote.
In court testimony, police said Daniels confessed that he drove Eutsey to a spot on Misty Meadows Road, near where the victim's bones were found, and the two walked about 20 yards into the woods.
A shotgun was fired, and the flash illuminated the face of his cousin, Tim Daniels, who allegedly threatened Robert Daniels and told him not to tell anyone about the shooting, Robert Daniels told police.
Prosecutors have said there is no evidence linking Tim Daniels to the murder.
During a pretrial hearing last year, forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht testified that an autopsy of the bones found cranial injuries that could have resulted from blunt-force trauma or a gunshot to the head.
In denying the appeal, Bell ruled Daniels knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree murder.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.