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Rostraver man loses 3rd appeal of life sentence for murder |

Rostraver man loses 3rd appeal of life sentence for murder

Rich Cholodofsky
Billy Ray Boggs Jr.

A Westmoreland County judge on Friday rejected the appeal of a Rostraver man serving a life prison term for the 2015 murder of his sister’s boyfriend.

Billy Ray Boggs Jr., 52, has, for the last three years, sought to withdraw his guilty plea to a count of first-degree murder for the stabbing and beating death of Thomas Guercio. Police said Boggs beat Guercio, 35, in the head with a hammer and then stabbed him in the chest. A day later, he dumped the body down a hillside near Kittanning, Armstrong County.

Boggs pleaded guilty in September 2015 and now contends he was coerced to do so by the district attorney and his own defense attorneys. Boggs served as his own lawyer in his latest appeal hearing before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway.

Boggs also claimed he suffered from a mental illness that clouded his ability to voluntarily plead guilty.

The judge, in a 14-page opinion filed Friday, denied Boggs’ appeal.

In that ruling, Hathaway said there was no evidence to support Boggs’ contention that he was coerced to plead guilty and that she heard no testimony that he suffered from any mental illness that would have prevented him from understanding the ramifications of his plea.

“Based on defendant’s own statements at this guilty plea hearing … it is abundantly clear that the defendant was clear-headed and coherent at the time he pled guilty to first-degree murder,” Hathaway wrote.

Boggs now has lost three separate appeals of his conviction and sentence.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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