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Two charged in 1977 murder of Charleroi's Mary Irene Gency

| Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More than 30 years after her brutal rape and murder, Mary Irene Gency's family may finally get closure.

DNA evidence and new witnesses provided the missing links needed to charge David Bernard Davoli, 53, of 1105 Meadow Ave., Charleroi, and Robert William Urwin Jr., 53, of 17 Coal St., Dunlevy, for the slaying of 16-year-old Gency on Feb. 13, 1977.

This is the second time Davoli has been accused of killing the North Charleroi girl, as he was the prime suspect following her death. But the charges were dropped in July of 1977, because of insufficient evidence.

"Advances in DNA technology and additional witnesses provided the information necessary to make the arrest," said state police Cpl. Beverly J. Ashton, of the Troop B Cold Case Homicide Unit.

Gency's clothing had been recovered and showed evidence of sperm, but DNA technology was not available at the time, Ashton stated in an affidavit of probable cause.

Ashton said that last June, Gency's underpants were sent to laboratories to be tested — as were DNA samples from several people, including Davoli and Urwin.

According to the affidavit, DNA results showed that sperm on Gency's pants matched Urwin. DNA testing indicated there was a mixture of DNA profiles matching Davoli and Urwin found in a seminal stain in her underpants.

During interviews in 1977 and 2009, Davoli denied ever having sexual contact with Gency.

Urwin also allegedly told state police in interviews in 1977 and 2009, that he had "broken up" with Gency several weeks before she disappeared, and that they had not had sexual relations for at least a month prior to her murder.

While both men denied seeing her the night she disappeared, they admit to being together that night, riding around in Davoli's car, according to the affidavit.

Davoli and Urwin were arrested Monday and arraigned on criminal homicide charges before Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins, of Charleroi, and jailed without bond to await a preliminary hearing set for June 2.

"We're hoping this time it will stick," Gency's older sister, Pamela Nichols, said. "The family has always hoped my dad and stepmother (Bud and Doris Gency) would be able to see closure."

Gency, a sophomore at Charleroi Area High School when she was killed, left her home about 7 p.m. Feb. 13, 1977, to walk to the Isaly's store in Charleroi.

She was seen 90 minutes later riding in Davoli's car. Urwin was her boyfriend, Nichols said.

When Gency didn't come home, a community search was organized.

Around 8 p.m., Anthony G. Fleming Sr. (now deceased), told state police he had just left the Fallowfield fire hall when he saw a purse in the middle of the street. The purse contained Gency's identification.

The search ended Feb. 19, 1977, when deer hunters John and Ronald Yancec found her body in a hayfield near the Charleroi Sportsman's Club on Gun Club Road in Fallowfield Township.

Former county Coroner Farrell Jackson ruled she died because of a fractured skull. At that time, Jackson told The Valley Independent the crime was the "most brutal I've seen in my 18 years as coroner."

She had also been raped.

Davoli, then 19, was arrested four months later, but the charges were dropped July 21, 1977, when then-Washington County President Judge Charles G. Sweet ordered his release from jail, ruling the district attorney's office "lacked sufficient evidence."

Davoli was represented at the time by Monessen attorney Bernard Shire. During Davoli's preliminary hearing July 8, 1977, District Judge Stephen J. Morgo, of Bentleyville, held the case for court, but called it the "the weakest I have ever heard."

During that preliminary hearing, the prosecution built its case on the testimony of two teenage brothers, Aaron and David Kash, of North Charleroi.

Aaron Kash, then 16, a classmate of Gency's at Charleroi Area High School, testified he saw the victim leave Isaly's in Charleroi on Feb. 13 as he was entering the store at 7:30 p.m.

He said he came back out and saw Gency standing in the doorway of Riva Travel Agency, adjacent to Isaly's.

David Kash, then 17, testified that he was sitting in his car, parked directly in front of the store, and noticed "a girl" standing in the travel agency doorway who got into a Buick Skylark operated by Davoli.

William Smith was interviewed during the investigation and said he was "cruising" the streets of Charleroi when he saw Gency standing alone near the Riva Travel Agency. Smith said he also saw Davoli drive by, with Urwin in the back seat and George Poskon in the front passenger seat.

Smith said he saw Davoli stop where Gency had been standing. When he drove around the block again, they were all gone.

Smith said he later saw Davoli's car parked on Gun Club Road, where it had been backed in with the lights off.

After the charges against Davoli were dropped, the case went cold.

Washington County District Attorney Steven Toprani said investigators were able to reopen Gency's murder thanks to a grant received to revisit cold cases.

Toprani said his office has worked closely with investigators to select unsolved crimes in which DNA evidence can be examined.

"This is one of those cases. Even though there was a 33-year gap in activity, the investigators were able to obtain evidence that was used to make these two arrests," Toprani said.

Toprani commended state police and Ashton, who spent countless hours working the case.

Nichols said troopers never discussed a possible motive for the slaying.

"There's not a day goes by we don't think about Mary," Nichols said. "I was just at the cemetery yesterday, putting flowers on her grave. We just miss her."

In an Oct. 2, 2005, Tribune-Review story that revisited Gency's unsolved murder, Mary's father, Bud Gency, said he thinks about his daughter every day.

"You always wonder what happened. Would we have had any grandchildren?" Bud Gency said.

At the time of Gency's slaying, she was one of four young women murdered in Washington County during a six-month period that spanned November 1976 and May 1977. The other women were:

* Susan Elizabeth Rush, 21, of 410 Duncan Ave. Washington, whose body was found Thanksgiving Day in the trunk of her car, which was parked near her home.

* Debbie Capiola. 17, of Findlay Township, who disappeared March 17 and whose body was found 10 days later in a strip mining area of Robinson Township.

* Brenda Lee Ritter, 18, of North Strabane Township, whose body was found May 19 in an isolated area of South Strabane Township.

Tribune-Review staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report.

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