A man charged with killing a 15-year-old girl in 1993 pleaded guilty yesterday to third-degree murder.
Sentencing for Sean M. McDonough, 42, of Thibodaux, La., is set for Feb. 17. Under terms of the plea, he expects to be sentenced to eight to 16 years in prison.
McDonough, formerly of New Butler Road, already has spent about 4 1/2 years in jail. The maximum sentence he could face is 20 years in prison and/or fines of $25,000.
Appearing with his court-appointed attorney, Randall Hetrick of Mercer, McDonough entered his plea before Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox. As part of the plea, he admitted that he stabbed 15-year-old Laura Lynn Thompson to death on Jan. 7, 1993.
McDonough initially faced 16 charges which included homicide, murder in the first, second and third degrees, abuse of a corpse, rape, and several counts of conspiracy.
Cox noted that had McDonough gone to trial and been found guilty of all charges against him, he would have faced facing a possible maximum sentence of life in prison plus six years and/or $40,000 in fines.
He had been scheduled to go to trial this month, and a panel of 72 prospective jurors had been summoned. Cox dismissed the panel yesterday following the guilty plea.
The judge also noted that a plea agreement had been discussed on Friday but the defendant initially had rejected it. Yesterday he agreed to the plea, after reflecting on it over the weekend.
Hetrick said he was court-appointed to defend McDonough because the case initially was to have been a death penalty case. Hetrick is certified to represent defendants in death penalty cases.
Following appeals filed since his client’s arrest, the courts ordered that the rape charge be withdrawn. That charge had been the aggravated circumstance that would have elevated the case to the death penalty.
Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said co-defendant Joseph N. Marshall, 43, of Pulaski, also is expected to enter a plea.
According to police reports, Marshall’s wife went to the police in September 2010, saying her husband had confessed to her that he and another man had killed a red-haired teenager named Laura in 1993.
New Castle police arrested Marshall on Sept. 25, 2010. He has cooperated with police since his arrest, law enforcement officials have said.
McDonough, who had moved to Louisiana in 1997, was arrested Sept. 27, 2010, in Louisiana and extradited to Pennsylvania. He too has been cooperative since his arrest, they said.
According to police records, the accused said the teen was buried in a shallow grave near a cabin off Route 422 in Shenango Township, then moved to a remote location in Hickory Township three to 18 months later.
Police conducted an excavation and an archaeological dig at the Hickory site to look for Laura’s body after the men were arrested, but found nothing.