Jeannette woman pleads guilty to 2016 beating death of boyfriend
A Jeannette woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to the third-degree murder of her live-in boyfriend, who prosecutors say suffered severe injuries during an altercation two years ago.
Crystal Belle, 38, told Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani she was guilty of the brutal beating of 19-year-old Khalil Parker of Brentwood, Allegheny County, in her South Seventh Street home on June 11, 2016.
Jury selection for Belle’s murder trial was scheduled to begin Wednesday. Prosecutors were expected to seek a first-degree murder conviction, saying Parker was bound with shoelaces and repeatedly beaten by Belle with several objects, including the handle of a snow shovel, and that her actions were premeditated.
District Attorney John Peck said the decision to allow Belle to plead guilty to a lesser charge was a result of the lack of physical evidence that could convince a jury the beating was intentional.
“It was a very circumstantial case, and the victim suffered no single injury that in and of itself was life-threatening. We don’t really know the specific cause for the assault,” Peck said.
Parker, according to prosecutors, died from blood loss. Police found blood in several rooms throughout Belle’s apartment as well as objects believed to have been used in the assault.
When asked Tuesday why she agreed to enter the plea, Belle said, “Because I am guilty.”
Had she been convicted of first-degree murder, Belle faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. By pleading guilty to third-degree murder, defined as a killing that occurs with malice but is not preplanned, she faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.
The judge said he will sentence Belle in about three months. At that time, the judge is expected to hear details of what led Belle to kill her boyfriend, defense attorney Brian Aston said.
“There was an event that set off a sudden reaction on her part,” Aston said.
In addition to the murder charge, Belle pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful restraint and tampering with evidence. Police said she attempted to clean up and conceal evidence of the murder. She fled her home after Parker’s body was discovered and taken to a hospital.
Belle was arrested a month later when she turned herself in to police in Pittsburgh.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.