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Soldier convicted of manslaughter, not murder, in Ligonier

Rich Cholodofsky

A Westmoreland County jury on Friday convicted an AWOL Army private of voluntary manslaughter for the savage beating and stabbing death of a 75-year-old retired Ligonier businessman two years ago.

The jury deliberated more than seven hours before finding Anthony Blaine Mowry, 20, of Unity guilty of voluntary manslaughter, arson and theft in connection with the Sept. 17, 2008, slaying of William McMichael Jones.

Mowry, who will be formally sentenced in about three months, faces a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Wearing a suit and dress shirt, Mowry began to cry as the verdict was read in Judge Al Bell’s courtroom. Public Defender Dante Bertani put his hand on Mowry’s shoulder.

“He was shaking like a leaf,” Bertani said.

Mowry’s mother, Karey Mowry, and older sister, Taura Overly, wept when the verdict was read.

“I might have my son home sooner,” Karey Mowry said. “He’s such a good kid, and when he gets out into the community, he will be a good man.”

Overly said her brother was convinced that he was going to be convicted of first-degree murder and could be facing life in prison.

In closing arguments yesterday, District Attorney John Peck asked jurors to find Mowry guilty of first-degree murder, claiming Mowry went to Jones’ home with the intent to hurt him.

Bertani told jurors that Mowry was unable to form an intent to kill and should be found guilty of a lesser offense, such as third-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Bertani said Mowry killed in a fit of rage brought on by a flashback of being raped by Jones as a young teenager.

Bertani said he was pleased with the verdict.

“We think the jury did the right thing,” Bertani said. “We don’t think there was any question that a young 13-year-old boy, who was sexually assaulted, couldn’t get that out of his head. He just lost it.”

In a taped confession, jurors heard Mowry describe the killing to county detectives who tracked him to his base at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Mowry did not take the stand in 12 days of testimony.

Jones’ naked body was found amid debris strewn about the bedroom of his ransacked home by firefighters, who came to extinguish fires Mowry set throughout the victim’s apartment on the first floor of the historic Morgan House on East Main Street in Ligonier.

The body was found next to objects Mowry used in the deadly assault — a meat cleaver, a carving knife, weighted chimes from a grandfather clock and a brass candlestick, heavily dented from being cracked against Jones’ head, according to testimony. Mowry pelted the body with eggs.

The badly beaten Jones died of two stab wounds in the heart.

The prosecution said Mowry stole $400 and bottles of liquor before he set Jones’ home ablaze and fled in the victim’s 1990 Cadillac DeVille. Mowry was arrested two days later at Fort Hood.

Peck described Mowry as a cold, calculating man who came to Jones’ home with the specific intent to hurt the victim. During the attack, Mowry faced a choice to kill Jones or let him live, Peck argued.

“He was going to finish off what he started to do. He hated Mike Jones so much because he thought he was a pedophile. He was going to do what he thought was right and just,” Peck said.

The defense claimed Mowry’s actions were diminished because he was intoxicated and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that stemmed from the rape by Jones.

Mowry told police days after his arrest, and a counselor at a juvenile placement facility in 2007, that he was raped by Jones as a teenager.

Bertani said a sexual encounter with Jones just before the killing caused Mowry to suffer a flashback that provoked the deadly assault.

“Something happened. The something that happened was the rape of this kid by Mr. Jones,” Bertani argued.

Jones was a former president of the Tribune-Review Publishing Co. The Morgan House where he lived has been torn down.

Bertani said he will file a petition to have Mowry released on bond pending sentencing.

Jennifer Reeger contributed to this story.


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