Crime

Verdict delivered in Penn State professor's death

George Ishler Jr. arrives at the Centre County Courthouse for another day of the murder trial of Ronald Bettig on Friday, April 20, 2018.
George Ishler Jr. arrives at the Centre County Courthouse for another day of the murder trial of Ronald Bettig on Friday, April 20, 2018. adrey@centredaily.com

A Pennsylvania Furnace man and a Lemont woman were found guilty of all charges, including first-degree murder, for the August 2016 death of 56-year-old Penn State professor Ronald Bettig.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before convicting George Ishler Jr., 41, and Danelle Geier, 34, on Monday. Both were sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for the rest of their natural lives.

"It was a result of a lot of hard work by the state police and a joint investigation with the State College police department. A lot of people put their heart and soul into this investigation and I'm happy we were able to bring some closure to Dr. Bettig's family," Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said.

Bettig was found dead at Blackhawk Quarry after an about 75-foot fall, which happened after Ishler pushed him off the quarry ledge.

Cantorna and Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said Ishler and Geier were motivated by the lure of financial gain, due in part to a crudely written will on Bettig's behalf.

Karen Muir, defense attorney for Ishler, said Bettig committed suicide and jumped to his death.

Deborah Lux, defense attorney for Geier, said Geier did not have a motive to kill the professor and was acting only because she was threatened by Ishler.

Cantorna said he spoke with some of Bettig's family members, who were thankful that Ishler and Geier were held accountable.

"They're thankful that they'll never be allowed to harm another person in society — and that society is protected as a result of that verdict," Cantorna said. "But it doesn't bring their brother back or their father back. It's only some solace."

Geier expressed sorrow before her sentence was delivered by President Judge Pamela Ruest.

"I'm sorry for what I've done," Geier said.

Ishler and Geier are guilty of conspiracy to commit murder of the first-degree, murder of the first-degree, murder of the third-degree, aggravated assault and tampering with, or fabricating, physical evidence.

Ishler is also guilty of making an unsworn falsification to authorities.

Throughout the trial, Cantorna said he was able to learn an extensive amount about Bettig and referred to him as a caring man and a man of the people.

"Ronald Bettig was a man ahead of his time; people just didn't realize it," Cantorna said. "His body of work was based on analyzing the media and the source of media. Believing that you needed to have a critical eye for where you get your source of information. This was written 10 and 15 years ago. He was talking about things that people are now talking about 10 years ago."

Cantorna also expressed admiration for Bettig as a man who "helped out the underdogs" and those who did not have all of the benefits that society has to offer.

"That's why he brought Danelle Geier and George Ishler into his life. It was not the first time he had done that. He spent a lifetime helping people," Cantorna said. "He was a brilliant man. He listened to a different drum beat and he offered great wisdom to an area of study that people will still refer to."

Cantorna also thanked the jurors who delivered the guilty verdict.

"Thanks go to the jurors who spent six days listening attentively to all of the evidence. Their duty and their work is very much appreciated," Cantorna said. "As well as state police, State College police department and my staff who worked very hard to get us here."

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