Youngwood man still on parole in 1993 killing sent to jail |
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Rich Cholodofsky

The man who fabricated the tale of a drug robbery two decades ago that led to the murder of a Monessen man and a transplant surgery that saved a sitting governor’s life was sent back to prison Monday.

Christopher Garry, 42, of Youngwood pleaded guilty to dealing heroin and will serve up to three years in prison.

In 1993, Garry was a central figure in the murder of 34-year-old William Michael Lucas outside his Monessen home, a killing that placed a spotlight on what police claimed was one of the largest cocaine trafficking rings on the East Coast at that time.

Lucas’ murder gained more attention after it became public that, a day after his death, Lucas’ heart and liver were transplanted into Gov. Robert P. Casey, who was dying from amyloidosis, which causes the liver to produce an abnormal protein.

Garry was the first and only man to face a jury in the Lucas murder even though eight suspects were charged. The others pleaded guilty.

In 1994, he was found guilty of third-degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

“His machinations put the whole thing in motion,” said Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda, who prosecuted Garry two decades ago.

During that trial, Garry testified that his greed led to Lucas’ murder.

The prosecution claimed Garry, a Monessen drug dealer, planned the fatal assault on Lucas when Garry stole a kilogram of cocaine from his Fayette County suppliers, blamed the theft on Lucas and led a posse of drug organization enforcers to Lucas’ doorstep.

The organization’s kingpin, Ronald Whethers of Edenborn, Fayette County, pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in 2001 and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years behind bars. In 1996, he was sentenced to life on federal drug and racketeering charges.

Garry was paroled in 2003, but he was returned to prison less than a year later, according to records from the state Board of Probation and Parole.

He was again paroled in 2005, but he was sent back to prison for a violation two years later.

Garry was paroled again in May 2011.

According to court records, Garry’s parole officer received a tip that he was dealing drugs from a New Stanton hotel.

A search of his hotel room on Jan. 17, 2012, found evidence of heroin. A subsequent search of Garry’s home found 189 stamp bags of heroin, according to court records.

Garry pleaded guilty Monday to four drug-related counts.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Hopson asked that Garry serve three to six years in prison.

Westmoreland County Judge Debra Pezze imposed two concurrent sentences that require Garry to serve 1 12 to three years in prison.

“You have taken steps toward your own rehabilitation, and there are evidentiary issues,” Pezze said.

Garry could face additional prison time if his parole on the murder case is again revoked.

Janaki Theivakumaran, spokeswoman for the state parole board, said Garry’s case is pending.

“We’ll start the process, and the next step will be to review the revocation,” Theivakumaran said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].

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