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August 17, 2017

Justice for Bechtels, Tragus & Barkus

Le Chrysalis Remembers Raienhana & Jacob Bechtel, Kristen L. Tragus & David D. Barkus


Judges refuse to allow quadruple murderer another appeal

BY PETER E. BORTNER (STAFF WRITER PBORTNER@REPUBLICANHERALD.COM) / PUBLISHED: JULY 28, 2010

Michael H. Bechtel, who murdered his wife, son and two other people in 2002 in Morea, does not deserve another chance to seek a new trial, a three-judge state Superior Court panel has ruled.

In an 18-page opinion filed Tuesday in Pottsville, the panel ruled Bechtel, 34, of Morea, waited more than two years too long to file his petition to withdraw his guilty plea and offered no evidence justifying the delay. The panel affirmed the Sept. 4 ruling by county Judge D, Michael Stine dismissing Bechtel's petition.

"(Bechtel) failed to prove that he was incompetent at the relevant times," the panel wrote.

As a result, Bechtel will remain behind state prison bars for the rest of his life.

Bechtel pleaded guilty on Jan. 21, 2004, to four counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and simple assault and one of endangering the welfare of children. Stine accepted the plea and immediately sentenced Bechtel to four consecutive terms of life imprisonment; Bechtel is serving his sentence at State Correctional Institution/Greene.

State police at Frackville charged Bechtel with fatally shooting Raienhna Bechtel, 22; Jacob Bechtel, 3; Kristen L. Tragus, 34, of Lost Creek; and David D. Barkus, 30, of Delano, on Aug. 15, 2002 at Raienhna Bechtel's home at 19 Lower St., Morea. Tragus and Barkus were friends of Raienhna Bechtel.

Any petition filed under the state Post Conviction Relief Act must be filed within one year of the defendant's sentence becoming final unless it falls under a specific limited exception, the panel ruled. Since Bechtel's sentence became final on Feb. 21, 2004, he had until Feb. 21, 2005, to file a petition, but he did not do so until Sept. 7, 2007, according to the panel.

Bechtel claimed that he was incompetent when he pleaded guilty and, therefore, he could not determine that his lawyers were ineffective until about a month before he filed his petition. He alleged that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyers insisted he do so and that he now claims he is innocent.

However, Stine concluded that Bechtel did not show he was incompetent when he could have filed a timely petition, and the panel ruled the evidence supported that determination.

Each of Bechtel's lawyers, Lynn Erickson, Leesport, and Kent D. Watkins, Saint Clair, testified that Bechtel never appeared incompetent, the panel wrote. State police Trooper Jeffrey Dunkel, who interviewed Bechtel, also said he appeared competent, as did Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley and Devon Jacob, two lawyers who interviewed Bechtel a month after his plea in connection with a civil lawsuit, according to the panel.

"We agree with the trial court that this evidence clearly suggested that (Bechtel) was competent long before he filed the ... petition," the panel wrote.

The panel also wrote that Stine did not act incorrectly in refusing to appoint an expert to examine Bechtel, noting that there was no evidence that such an examination could show whether he was competent in either 2004 or 2007.

Judges Mary Jane Bowes and Sallie Updyke Mundy and Senior Judge James J. Fitzgerald III comprised the panel that decided Bechtel's appeal. The opinion does not indicate which judge wrote it.Defendant: Michael H. Bechtel

Age: 34

Hometown: Morea

Crimes committed: Four counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and simple assault and one of endangering the welfare of children

Prison sentences: Four consecutive life sentences, being served at State Correctional Institution/Greene

REPUBLICAN HERALD


Schuylkill man charged in 4 deaths

Michael Bechtel, 26, is recovering from self-inflicted wound.

August 22, 2002|By Chris Parker Of The Morning Call

Police on Wednesday charged a Schuylkill County man, who remains hospitalized with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, with killing his estranged wife, their 3-year-old son and two of her friends a week ago.

Michael Harley Bechtel, 26, of Morea, a village near Mahanoy City, was charged with four counts of homicide and related crimes. Bechtel allegedly shot the victims in the head before turning the gun on himself.

Bechtel remains in the trauma unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township. He won't be arrested until he leaves the unit, said Schuylkill County District Attorney Frank Cori.

"I understand he's improved slightly," Cori said. "He's able to respond to some commands. We'll have to wait until he's able to leave the hospital and then we'll serve him with the papers."

A hospital employee on Wednesday said he could not find Bechtel's name in the hospital's computer.

Police believe Bechtel shot his wife, Raienhna P. Bechtel, 22, and their son, Jacob Bechtel, 3, both of Morea; Kristen L. Tragus, 34, of Lost Creek; and David D. Barkus, 30, of Delano at his wife's home about 1:15 a.m last Thursday.

In arrest papers filed with District Justice William Slezosky of Mahanoy City, police outlined their investigation. The papers reveal:

Shannon Ashfield, who lives in the other half of the double home where the killings took place, heard loud music late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. She said she heard Raienhna arguing with a man and saying, "Stop it. I don't know why you get this way when you're drinking."

Ashfield said she then heard "several loud popping sounds" about 1:25 a.m. The music stopped around the same time, she said, so she went to bed.

Dennis Cooney of Shenandoah said Tragus called him about 12:40 a.m., when Raienhna Bechtel and Barkus went out for a six-pack of beer. Cooney said Tragus was calling to tell him she was baby-sitting Jacob Bechtel.

Cooney said that, after Raienhna Bechtel returned, he spoke with her until Michael Bechtel arrived. He said Michael Bechtel then got on the phone and demanded to know who was on the line. Cooney said he hung up.

Police also interviewed Michael Bechtel's cousin, James Palestis of Girardville, with whom Bechtel lived. Palestis said his cousin's demeanor had changed in the 10 days before the killings because Raienhna Bechtel had started dating.

The bodies were discovered 7 p.m. last Thursday when Raienhna Bechtel's mother, Joan Michelle Starr, went to the home. Police said Starr became concerned when her daughter failed to answer repeated telephone calls.

Starr looked through a window, saw the bodies, and called 911, police said.

State troopers from the Frackville barracks found Raienhna Bechtel, Tragus, and Barkus at the kitchen table. Jacob Bechtel was in a bed upstairs.

Autopsies have confirmed all four died of gunshot wounds to the head.

Michael Bechtel, seriously injured by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, was found on the floor near his son's bed, a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol under him.

Police said in the arrest affidavit that Bechtel owned the pistol, but Palestis said he kept it locked in his house until Bechtel asked him for it to go target shooting a few weeks before the killing. Michael Bechtel had moved in after he and his wife separated in the spring.

The Morning Call

August 15, 2017

Murder of Scot Marie Hermanson & Capture of David J. Pederson

Le Chrysalis Remembers Scot Marie Hermanson


Suspect in Apple Valley killing is arrested; Man charged in girlfriend's death is found in N. Dakota.(NEWS)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

September 2, 2000

Sleeping in culverts and eating crab apples, David J. Pederson was apparently living off whatever he could find in rural western North Dakota before he was arrested Thursday night, August 31st, in the killing of his Apple Valley girlfriend, a sheriff said.

Pederson has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Scot Marie Hermanson, 32, at their apartment on Aug. 13. Authorities nationwide were alerted about his disappearance.

Looking tattered and worn, he was caught by deputies from Stark and Morton counties between Richardton and Hebron. People had reported a suspicious person along Interstate Hwy. 94 near the county line.

Highbeam.com

August 14, 2017

Ignacia Aranda Teen Dating Violence Murder

Le Chrysalis Remembers Ignacia Aranda


Tucson murder trial linked to naughty Kardashian cellphone pic begins

Kim Smith, Arizona Daily Star

Nov 8, 2012

For hours, Carlos Torres told detectives, his new girlfriend and his parents the same thing.

He insisted the 17-year-old mother of his little girl stabbed herself to death, Pima County’s chief criminal deputy county attorney Kellie Johnson told jurors Wednesday.

Even when detectives told him Ignacia Aranda suffered 19 to 25 stab wounds to her face and throat, Torres, then 19, said she killed herself in a fit of jealousy, Johnson said.

It wasn’t until two months later that Torres came clean with his parents in telephone conversations from the jail, Johnson said.

Torres admitted he lost his temper and stabbed her to death, Johnson said.

The prosecutor told jurors that by the end of Torres’ trial they will have enough evidence to convict him of premeditated, first-degree murder.

Assistant Pima County Public Defender Adam Page told jurors Torres’ crime was one of passion, not premeditation.

During opening statements Wednesday, Johnson told jurors the couple began dating when Aranda was 13 and Torres 15.

It was a tumultuous relationship that worsened after the birth of their daughter, Isabella in February 2010.

In early August 2011, Aranda’s mother took away her phone because she didn’t want her to see Torres anymore, Johnson said.

On Aug. 5, 2011, Kelly Aranda became frustrated when her daughter pleaded for permission to see Torres eventually giving her permission to go, Johnson said.

Ignacia Aranda packed up clothes for her and the baby and moved in with Torres at Retro City Apartments, 2475 N. Haskell Drive.

Three days later, Johnson said Torres left Aranda to visit his other girlfriend, a 15-year-old.

When he got back, Johnson said Torres texted and called his other girlfriend  to complain that Aranda had gone through all of his things.

Sometime the same night, Aranda called her mother to pick her and the baby up because she and Torres were fighting, Johnson said.

Before Kelly Aranda made it out the door, Ignacia Aranda called back and told her everything was OK and she was staying, Johnson said.

At 8:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Torres called his other girlfriend and told her Aranda had stabbed herself to death, Johnson said. That girl called Torres’ mother, Rachel Vallejo, and she called 911.

When detectives arrived, they discovered Aranda had been dead for hours, Johnson said.

They also discovered Torres had called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital at 2 a.m. so he could have his injured hand stitched up.

Page told jurors Aranda found a Girl’s Gone Wild video while Torres was at the other girlfriend's and they argued about it.

When Aranda called her mother to pick her up, Page said Torres begged her to stay, they “kissed and made up” and began playing video games.

The argument heated up again though, when Aranda demanded Torres’ phone, saying she didn’t think she’d ever be able to trust him.

When looking through the phone, Aranda found texts between Torres and his other girlfriend and a downloaded picture of a scantily clad Kim Kardashian.

Aranda punched Torres and he pushed her away, Page said.

Then, Aranda said, “I wish you were dead and I wish I had my baby with somebody else,” Page said.

Torres snapped, Page said.

“Before he knows it, he’s standing over Ignacia’s lifeless body,” Page said.

Panic and fear caused Torres to go to the hospital and to pour bleach around Aranda’s body, Page said.

Torres’ mom testified her son told her the last thing he remembers after Aranda told him she wished someone else had fathered the baby is his head getting “hot and dizzy.”

The other girlfriend told Page that Torres was simply irritated the last time he spoke to her; he never indicated he wanted to harm or kill Aranda.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields is presiding over the trial.

Tucson.com


Jury gets case of woman's stabbing death

Suspect, 20, originally said tot's mom knifed herself

Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star

Nov 9, 2012

The fate of a 20-year-old Tucson man accused of stabbing the mother of his toddler daughter to death in August 2011 is in the hands of a Pima County jury.

Carlos Torres' attorneys argued he killed Ignacia Aranda,17, in the heat of passion, but prosecutors contend he is guilty of first-degree murder.

Torres originally told detectives, his new girlfriend and his parents that Aranda stabbed herself to death, Kellie Johnson, chief criminal deputy county attorney, told jurors during opening statements Wednesday.

Even after detectives pointed out Aranda suffered 19 to 25 stab wounds to her face and throat, Torres contended she killed herself in a fit of jealousy, Johnson said.

It wasn't until two months later that Torres came clean with his parents in telephone conversations from the jail, Johnson said.

Torres admitted he lost his temper and stabbed her to death, Johnson said.

Johnson told jurors the couple began dating when Aranda was 13 and Torres 15.

It was a tumultuous relationship that worsened after the birth of their daughter, Isabella, in February 2010.

Despite misgivings voiced by her mother, in August 2011 Aranda and the baby moved in with Torres at Retro City Apartments, 2475 N. Haskell Drive.

Three days later, Johnson said, Torres left Aranda to visit his other girlfriend, who was 15 at the time.

When he got back, Johnson said, Torres texted and called the other girlfriend to complain Aranda had gone through all of his things.

That same night, Aranda called her mother to pick her and the baby up because she and Torres were fighting, Johnson said.

Before Kelly Aranda, her mother, made it out the door, Ignacia Aranda called back and told her everything was OK and she was staying, Johnson said.

At 8:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Torres called the other girlfriend again and told her Aranda had stabbed herself to death, Johnson said. The girlfriend called Torres' mother, Rachel Vallejo, and she called 911.

When detectives arrived, they discovered Aranda had been dead for hours, Johnson said.

They also discovered Torres had called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital at 2 a.m. so he could have his injured hand stitched up.

Assistant Pima County Public Defender Adam Page told jurors Aranda found a "Girl's Gone Wild" video while Torres was away and they argued about it.

When Aranda called her mother to pick her up, Page said, Torres begged her to stay, they "kissed and made up" and began playing video games.

The argument heated up again, though, when Aranda demanded Torres' phone, saying she didn't think she'd ever be able to trust him.

When looking through the phone, Aranda found texts between Torres and the other girlfriend, and a downloaded picture of a scantily clad Kim Kardashian.

Aranda punched Torres and he pushed her away, Page said.

When Aranda said, "I wish you were dead and I wish I had my baby with somebody else," Page said, Torres "snapped."

"Before he knows it, he's standing over Ignacia's lifeless body," Page said.

Panic and fear caused Torres to go to the hospital and to pour bleach on the bloody carpet around Aranda's body, Page said.

Torres' mother testified her son told her that the last thing he remembers after Aranda told him she wished someone else had fathered the baby was his head getting "hot and dizzy."

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields is presiding over the trial.

Tucson.com

Tucson man convicted in girlfriend's stabbing death

Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star

Nov 10, 2012

After deliberating most of Friday, a Pima County jury decided a Tucson man intentionally stabbed his teen girlfriend to death but did so without premeditation.

Carlos Torres, 20, was convicted of second-degree murder and is facing a minimum of 10 years in prison when sentenced Dec. 10. Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction.

Torres waived his right to let the jury decide if aggravating factors exist that could enhance his sentence to as much as 22 years. The decision will be made by Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields.

Prosecutors Kellie Johnson and Kendrick Wilson intend to argue that Torres is eligible for the maximum sentence because he killed Ignacia Aranda, 17, in the presence of their 18-month-old daughter, because of the emotional harm to Aranda's family and because of the nature of the murder itself.

During opening statements, Johnson told jurors that Torres and Aranda argued on Aug. 8, 2011, because Aranda had gone through Torres' belongings while he was visiting another girlfriend.

At 8:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Torres called the other girlfriend and told her Aranda had stabbed herself to death, Johnson said. The girlfriend called Torres' mother, who called 911. When detectives arrived, they discovered Aranda had been dead for hours, Johnson said.

An autopsy revealed Aranda had been stabbed in the face and neck between 19 and 25 times.

Assistant Pima County Public Defender Adam Page told jurors Aranda found a "Girls Gone Wild" video while Torres was away and they argued about it.

Page and fellow defense attorney Michael Rosenbluth argued the slaying wasn't premeditated but a crime of passion.

According to testimony, the couple began a tumultuous relationship when Aranda was 13 and Torres was 15. Aranda and their daughter moved in with Torres just a few days before the slaying.

Torres, who has an IQ of 51 and is considered intellectually disabled, paid for his rent at the Retro City Apartments, 2475 N. Haskell Drive, with his disability checks, his mother testified.

Torres' other girlfriend, 15, testified she thought Torres and Aranda had broken up and Aranda was living with him because her mother had kicked her out.

On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/courthouse

Tucson.com


Tucson man given 19 years in girlfriend’s killing

Kim Smith, Arizona Daily Star

Dec 10, 2012

A Tucson man who stabbed his girlfriend to death in the presence of their 18-month-old daughter was sentenced to 19 years in prison Monday in Pima County Superior Court.

Carlos Torres, 20, was facing between 10 and 22 years in prison in the Aug. 8, 2011, death of Ignacia Aranda, 17.

A Pima County jury was asked to convict Torres of first-degree, premeditated murder, but convicted him of second-degree murder instead.

Prosecutors Kellie Johnson and Kendrick Wilson argued Torres should receive no less than 20 years, because of the baby’s presence, the emotional harm to Aranda's family and because Torres has a history of violent behavior.

Although Torres is considered intellectually disabled with an IQ of 51, Johnson told Judge Richard Fields he knew right from wrong. His daughter will now grow up without a mother, she pointed out.

Assistant Pima County Public Defender Michael Rosenbluth told the judge his client is remorseful. He argued for a mitigated sentence because of Torres’ age, mental capacity and dysfunctional childhood.

“Deep down, he’s a decent human being your honor,” Rosenbluth said, adding Torres hopes to better himself in prison by obtaining his general equivalency diploma and taking additional classes.

During Torres’ trial, jurors were told the couple argued because Aranda had gone through Torres’ belongings while he was visiting another girlfriend.

At 8:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Torres called the other girlfriend and told her Aranda had stabbed herself to death, Johnson said. The girlfriend called Torres’ mother, who called 911. When detectives arrived, they discovered Aranda had been dead for hours, Johnson said.

An autopsy revealed Aranda had been stabbed in the face and neck between 19 and 25 times.

Assistant Pima County Public Defender Adam Page told jurors Aranda found a "Girls Gone Wild" video while Torres was away and they argued about it.

When Aranda called her mother to pick her up, Page said, Torres begged her to stay, they "kissed and made up" and began playing video games.

The argument heated up again, though, when Aranda found texts between Torres and the other girlfriend, and a downloaded picture of a scantily clad Kim Kardashian.

Aranda punched Torres and he pushed her away, Page said.

When Aranda said, “I wish you were dead and I wish I had my baby with somebody else," Page said, Torres "snapped.”

Page and Rosenbluth argued the slaying wasn't premeditated but a crime of passion.

Torres told Aranda’s family he was sorry for his “horrible crime” and for forcing them to see pictures of Aranda’s lifeless body during the trial.

“I deserve to be punished,” he said.

Tucson.com