DA, alleged killers at odds over murder trial

A response has been issued on a request by Danelle Geier to have her murder trial of Ronald Bettig severed from the trial of George Ishler.

Bettig, of Lemont, was reported missing on Aug. 16. His body was found a few days later at the bottom of a quarry in Potter Township.

Murder charges soon followed for Ishler, 39, and Geier, 32, both of whom are accused of conspiring and planning Bettig’s death. According to police testimony, Bettig, Ishler and Geier had driven to the quarry on Aug. 12 when Ishler allegedly pushed Bettig, causing him to fall to the bottom.

Geier was charged with murder on Aug. 20, and a notice consolidating the trials was issued on Sept. 22. Geier pleaded not guilty on Sept. 28 and filed a pretrial motion Oct. 27 requesting to sever the trials, saying she would be “severly prejudiced” by having the charges tried together at the same trial.

In the response dated Tuesday, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller argued that offenses charged in separate indictments may be tried together if the offenses are based on the same transaction, adding that the “general policy of the law is to encourage joinder of offenses ... when judicial economy can thereby be effected, especially when the result will be to avoid the expensive and time-consuming duplication of evidence.”

The truth may be more easily determined if the cases are tried together, she continued, saying severance may be proper if the defenses interfere so much that a joint trial would result in prejudice. However, there must be more than just an assertion of interference.

A motion to sever the cases was also filed Nov. 28 by Ishler. No response or ruling has been issued yet.

A custody agreement Dec. 2 signed over the rights to Geier’s son to his maternal grandmother until Geier is “physically and financially able to care for the child.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews