2017-01-16 / State

Man convicted of murder of person found in river

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania man has been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a man whose body was later found in a West Virginia river.

Common Pleas Judge Joseph Williams III called Hubert Wingate, 31, of Pittsburgh, “a plague on the community” in issuing his decision Friday in the non-jury trial in Allegheny County.

The body of Andre Gray, 34, who had disappeared in October 2014, was found in March 2015 by a towboat captain in the Ohio River near Follansbee, West Virginia. An autopsy concluded that he had been stabbed 10 times but died from a gunshot to the head.

Wingate was charged along with Raymond Schifino, 30, who was accused of having helped dispose of the body and deal with evidence, including killing the victim’s dog so its blood could be used to contaminate the crime scene.

Schifino pleaded guilty on the opening day of trial to theft, receiving stolen property, cruelty to animals, abuse of a corpse, reckless burning and receiving stolen property in exchange for prosecutors recommending a two- to six-year prison term. Schifino testified that Wingate killed Gray and the two dumped the body in the Allegheny River in Arnold under cover of darkness.

Wingate, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole in April, took the stand and blamed Schifino for the slaying, saying his cellphone was linked to the area because the other man had borrowed it. Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky also said cellphone records and other evidence didn’t match Schifino’s testimony.

The judge, however, said Schifino’s testimony “rang with truth” but he found the defendant’s testimony “too much” and “fraught with lies.”

“It was a story that someone real bright thought they would concoct over 11 months in jail,” Williams said. “The truth is simple.”

The victim’s mother, Victoria Gray Tillman, said she felt “overwhelmed and very free” following the verdict, which she called “a long time coming.”

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