Man pleads guilty in daughter-in-law's '99 slaying
HUNTINGDON, Pa. (AP) -- A central Pennsylvania man faces up to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree murder in the death of his daughter-in-law almost 15 years ago.
Kenneth Leighty, 66, of Altoona, entered the plea Thursday in the 1999 slaying of 23-year-old Sherry Leighty, The (Altoona) Mirror ( http://bit.ly/1l0Evqk ) reported.
Huntingdon County District Attorney George Zanic said prosecutors had agreed to recommend a prison term of seven to 14 years when Leighty is sentenced in February. He said Leighty wouldn't have served a day behind bars without the deal that authorities came up with last spring in order to locate the remains of the mother of three on his property about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh.
"I'm not happy with the sentence, but I made the decision because we wouldn't have been able to find her without it," Zanic said, surrounded by investigators from Altoona and Huntingdon counties as well as relatives of the victim.
Detective Cpl. Matthew Starr of the Altoona Police Department said Leighty told investigators that he and the victim got into a heated argument at his home that turned violent, and he struck her in the head "with some sort of solid object, whether a bat or a pole." He said he put her into his vehicle, where she died, and drove to his rural Huntingdon County property in Warriors Mark Township. Starr said the defendant never told investigators what led to the argument.
Leighty had earlier told police that he took Sherry Leighty to work on the day of her disappearance, then went to work himself, but police said they discovered he was off that day. Sherry Leighty's husband - the defendant's son, Aaron - told investigators he initially believed she may have run off to Maine with another man but began to doubt that when she didn't contact their children in subsequent weeks, months and years.
Kenneth Leighty pleaded guilty earlier to aggravated assault against state police troopers investigating the case and was sentenced to three to 23 months in prison.
Information from: Altoona Mirror, http://www.altoonamirror.com