Jun. 11—The Greensburg man prosecutors said beat a Vandergrift woman with a hammer, choked her to death and burned her body in a remote area near Keystone State Park in early 2017 was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder.
After 13 hours of deliberations over two days, a Westmoreland County jury returned a guilty verdict against Walter Cable, 28, for his role in the death of 34-year-old Ronny Cable. The victim's charred remains were found in a Derry Township field on March 9, 2017.
Walter Cable testified earlier this week that he last saw Ronny Cable at about midnight on Feb. 17, 2017 when he and another man dropped her off near her Vandergrift home. He said he arrived at his Greensburg home at about 1 a.m. Walter Cable denied any involvement in her murder.
"Our case was that Walter Cable killed Ronny Cable, and the jury concurred with that," said Assistant District Attorney Pete Caravello. "It was a very sad fact pattern and I hope this verdict gives some closure to the victim, her mother, her children and the rest of her family."
In addition to the murder conviction, the jury also found Cable guilty of conspiracy and abuse of a corpse. He was acquitted of one count of robbery.
By virtue of the first-degree murder conviction, Cable faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger said he will conduct a sentencing hearing for Cable in about three months.
During the eight-day trial, prosecutors relied on testimony from co-defendant Devin Akamichi, 28, of Export. Akamichi testified he watched Walter Cable hit his victim in the head at least 10 times with a hammer then choke her to death as part of a plot to steal her drugs and money.
Akamichi testified Cable placed the woman on the ground and threatened him to help collect kindling to burn her body.
Akamichi claimed Cable also burned his own bloody shirt and used a shovel to break up the woman's bones as the fire blazed for hours. At one point the men drove to a Delmont convenience store for snacks and gasoline then returned to the woods to finish burning the body.
Forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat, a professor at Mercyhurst University in Erie who examined the remains, testified the body was likely burned for up to 10 hours.
Defense attorney Tim Andrews argued Akamichi was the killer. He reiterated that position after the verdict was announced Thursday evening.
"Obviously, we're disappointed in the verdict. It is our belief Mr. Akamichi's testimony was not credible," Andrews said. "We also have to remember the evidence clearly showed that Ronny Cable was murdered, and I'm hoping the perpetrators are brought to justice. Mr. Cable still maintains his innocence, but he is going to be sentenced accordingly."
Akamichi described Ronny Cable as a former girlfriend. He told jurors they became reacquainted after he and Walter Cable ran into her at a Greensburg gas station on Feb. 14, 2017. They socialized together at her Vandergrift home that night and again two nights later before driving out to a bar in Oklahoma Borough, he contended.
That's where Walter Cable said he planned to kill the victim. He ordered Akamichi to turn off his cell phone for the night, Akamichi testified.
Ronny Cable, the mother of two young boys, had struggled with drug addiction since she was 16, her mother testified. Family members attended each day of the trial. They declined to comment on Thursday's verdict.
Police said Akamichi initially denied any involvement in Cable's disappearance. But during numerous police interrogations in early March, he eventually confessed and identified Walter Cable as her killer. Akamichi then took investigators to the campsite where her charred remains were discovered.
Hundreds of bone fragments and several pieces of jewelry were discovered at the wooded site that Walter Cable claimed was previously owned by his family members and he still used for campfires.
A small piece of scalp found among the remains contained Ronny Cable's DNA, witnesses testified. Beer cans in a bag that hung from a tree near the remains contained Walter Cable's DNA, according to the prosecution.
Security video from a Walmart and a state liquor store in the Natrona Heights section of Harrison showed the men with the victim on Feb. 16.
Another video depicted Walter Cable and Akamichi at a Delmont convenience store before 5 a.m. on Feb. 17, where Akamichi claimed they visited during a break as they burned the body.
Akamichi, who is being held in jail without bond, is awaiting trial on charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy and abuse of a corpse. No trial date has been scheduled.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, email@example.com or via Twitter .