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Prosecutors defend sentence in Fayette inmate's appeal

| Wednesday, May 2, 2012, 9:26 p.m.

Eighty years behind bars is an appropriate sentence for a Fayette County man convicted of using his truck to ram a motorcycle and kill two people, according to prosecutors.

Edward Allan Belch, 51, formerly of McClellandtown, is serving a 40- to 80-year sentence on two, third-degree homicide convictions in the May 10, 2005, deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Terri Gresko, and her companion, Thomas Myers.

Gresko, 44, and Myers, 54, were riding a motorcycle on Route 21 when Belch rammed the bike with his truck. A witness said that after the crash, Belch allegedly stood over Gresko's body and said, "Terri, I told you I was going to get you."

Prosecutors sought first-degree homicide convictions and had planned to ask jurors to impose the death penalty in the case.

But Belch, who argued at trial that he was too intoxicated to have formed the intent to kill, was convicted on two counts of the lesser offense of third-degree homicide.

He was sentenced in January 2007 to 20 to 40 years on each count, to be served consecutively.

In an appeal in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Belch claims he had ineffective trial counsel and the sentence is "manifestly excessive" because he had no prior record and was intoxicated when he struck the motorcycle.

In a response, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli Jr. argued neither claim has merit.

"The appellant caused two deaths and was sentenced consecutively for each," Iannamorelli wrote. "He was sentenced within the standard range, though on the extreme high end, for third-degree murder."

Iannamorelli wants the appeal to be dismissed.

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