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Bettig Murder Trial Moved to Spring

by on February 08, 2018 1:00 PM

The trial for two people accused of murdering Penn State of murdering a Penn State professor in August 2016 has been pushed back until the spring.

Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest signed an order last week moving the trial for George G. Ishler Jr., 41, and Danelle R. Geier, 33, to the April term of court.

Ishler and Geier are accused of luring 56-year-old Ronald Bettig, of Lemont, to a Potter Township quarry where Ishler allegedly pushed Bettig off a ledge, causing him to fall 80 feet to his death.

The change in trial date was not unexpected, as jurors will be taken to the quarry site and a spring trial would likely provide better  weather conditions to do so. Centre County also had a new district attorney, Bernie Cantorna, just take office in January.

Both Ishler and Geier are charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.

A 13-day trial had been scheduled for October 2017, but was delayed to the December term of court after Ishler's attorney, Karen Muir, requested her client undergo a mental health evaluation prior to trial. She wrote in a filing at the time she was "concerned about the mental stability, health and welfare of Mr. Ishler based on a recent conversation."

Following a hearing in December, the trial was moved to the February term.

Investigators said Ishler and Geier believed they could profit from Bettig's death.

Ishler allegedly told police in 2016 that he had handwritten a will that Bettig, an assistant professor of communications at Penn State, signed and that Ishler held the only copy in his Pennsylvania Furnace home. Ishler and Geier also were allegedly upset with Bettig's criticism of how Geier was raising her child and that he had been "belittling" Ishler.

Police said that on Aug. 10, 2016, the three, along with Geier's child, traveled to Rehoboth Beach, Del., where Ishler and Geier planned to drown Bettig. They did not go through with it but on their return on Aug. 12 allegedly hatched the plan to tell Bettig that Ishler had marijuana plants growing at the  quarry that they could harvest and smoke. Police said the three drove to the quarry between 3:30-4 p.m. upon their return to Centre County and while Geier waited in the car, Ishler and Bettig walked through a wooded area to the quarry, where Ishler allegedly pushed Bettig over the ledge.

A medical examiner later said Bettig died from blunt force trauma caused by the fall and may have been alive and unable to move for up to two days before his death.

Ishler and Geier later returned Bettig's car to the quarry and staged the scene to look like Bettig was there alone, police said. On Aug. 15 they reported Bettig missing and Bettig's car was discovered on Aug. 17. Police said they were led to the area where Bettig's body was found by buzzards flying overhead.

Geier admitted that she and Ishler had planned together to kill Bettig, according to court documents. In an interview with State College and Pennsylvania State Police, Ishler allegedly changed his story several times before giving a full statement implicating him and Geier. 

He sought in 2017 to have that admission thrown out but the motion was denied by Judge Pamela Ruest. Ishler had claimed he was not properly given warnings about his Miranda rights and that he was coerced into making the confession.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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