Soldier to stand trial in Ligonier man's death

Paul Peirce
| Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

An Army private from Unity confessed that he intended only to rough up a retired Ligonier businessman but became enraged during a sex act and brutally beat and stabbed him to death before setting his apartment on fire in September.

The taped confession was played during a preliminary hearing Thursday for Anthony Blaine Mowry, 18, who is accused of killing William McMichael Jones, 75, in Jones' Ligonier home. After 1 12 hours of testimony, Ligonier District Judge Denise Thiel ordered Mowry to stand trial on charges of murder, robbery, theft and arson.

Jones was a former president of Tribune-Review Publishing Co. and grandson of the founder of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.

Two days after Jones' body was found in his ransacked East Main Street apartment, Westmoreland County detectives traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, where Mowry detailed a relationship with Jones that dated back several years.

Mowry told detectives he had known Jones since he was 14 but denied it was a sexual relationship.

Mowry told detectives Robert Weaver and Richard Kranitz that he sometimes stayed with a relative in Ligonier and frequently walked past Jones' apartment. During those walks, Mowry said, Jones sometimes made sexually suggestive comments to him, and he once noticed Jones gawking at his younger brother.

"... I saw him eye him up, and he came out on a couple of different occasions trying to say stuff, and I would just yell back ... he's a stupid pedophile and just little comments ... ," Mowry told detectives.

Mowry said that after a day of drinking Sept. 17, he was walking past Jones' apartment and Jones invited him in for a drink.

"So I decided that I was gonna go in there, and I was going have this drink and that I was just going to beat him up," Mowry said.

Mowry said that when he couldn't get Jones away from a large window facing Main Street, he decided to consent to sex in his bedroom.

"During that act, he did something that really angered me, so I started punching him in his face and ... he kept trying to fight back, so I choked him a little bit and he was laying on the floor. He was still moving around, so I ... got a knife and was stabbing him and cutting his throat ... ," he said.

Detective Tim Sethman testified that police confiscated a butcher knife and meat cleaver at the scene. The state police crime lab is testing a candlestick holder and three large brass chimes from a grandfather clock to determine whether they were used in the crime, he said.

Sethman said an autopsy by an Allegheny County pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, showed Jones died from multiple stab wounds in his head, neck and upper body and multiple blunt-force trauma.

Mowry told police that he "ransacked" the house to make it look like Jones was killed during a burglary. Mowry said he took $400 and several bottles of liquor.

"I was pretty intoxicated," he said.

In his confession, Mowry said he showered "just to get the blood off," changed his clothes and then set the apartment on fire. Police believe Mowry then fled to Donegal Township in Jones' 1990 Cadillac.

Firefighters found Jones' body when they were called to the fire.

Sethman said police found a small safe and several dresser drawers on top of Jones' unclothed body.

Mowry said friends later picked him up near the Donegal turnpike interchange and took him to Pittsburgh International Airport for a flight back to Fort Hood, where he was serving with the 664th Ordnance Company, part of the 180th Transportation Battalion.

District Attorney John Peck said he has not decided whether he will seek the death penalty. He has to make a decision by the time Mowry is arraigned before a Westmoreland County judge in several weeks.

"In addition to looking at the aggravating factors, we've also got to look at his background ... whether there were any mitigating factors involved," Peck said.

He said officials plan to study any previous court records on Mowry, plus his school records from the Greater Latrobe and Ligonier Valley districts.

Mowry is being held without bond in the county prison.

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