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Somerset Co. man sentenced for killing, burying girlfriend
SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. -- A gruesome murder case in Somerset County came to a close on Tuesday. Jonathan Beal pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence in September for the death of Justine Jackson. On Monday, a judge handed him his sentence.
Beal sat in the courtroom before sentencing Tuesday morning joking with his attorney. He's accused of strangling Jackson, who was his girlfriend, and burying her body in a shallow grave underneath a viaduct outside of Meyersdale last November. According to prosecutors Beal doesn't deny what he did, in fact they said he admitted to his actions but never gave a reason why.
"There's no question he played a role in her death. The question is how it happened," said Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser. "That of course is our burden of proof."
Lazzari-Strasiser saw the murder scene herself and said what he did was very evident. What she didn't have was a motive and that's why her office struck a plea deal with Beal in September.
"We just weren't able to put together a first-degree case," said Lazzari-Strasiser. "There isn't any question of what he did to her after she died and that to me is a great indication of what type of person can do this to another human being."
By pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, Beal was promised a lesser sentence. And that's what he got on Tuesday -- 10 to 24 years in a state correctional facility. Beal will get credit for time served, which is about one year.
Beal had nothing to say when the judge asked. His attorney said he has been remorseful but wouldn't elaborate further. Lazzari -Strasiser said she doesn't believe it.
"My opinion, based on what we gleaned after he was incarcerated, interviews, discussions, letters, I'm hard pressed to be convinced that he had any remorse," she said.
The judge called it a heinous crime and told Beal his acts were cold-blooded. He said he knows Beal will get out of jail someday, but only hopes he comes out a much better man than when he went in.