The Washington County Court calendar indicated a Cecil Township homicide case was likely to be resolved Wednesday afternoon, until First Assistant District Attorney Jason Walsh opened with the words, “Mr. Murray has rejected the plea offer at this time.”
David William Murray, 54, of Adams Street, McDonald, declined to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of 1 to 2 years’ imprisonment. Murray also rejected entering a guilty plea to a charge of cultivating marijuana and committing two parole violations, which would have given him a total sentence of 2 to 5 years, according to Public Defender Glenn Alterio.
Cecil Township police accused Murray of killing Nathaniel Kevin Gardner, 52, in the kitchen of Murray’s home. Murray reportedly told police on the night of Dec. 2, 2016, he was watching television when he heard pounding on a door. He said he retrieved a gun from a bedroom and rushed at Gardner, who was unarmed, when the intruder kicked in the door. Police said Murray shot Gardner once in the chest.
Police said Murray told them the incident mirrored another that occurred the previous month when a man he did not know, but who was later identified as Gardner, forced his way into Murray’s home and stole an ounce of marijuana.
State police said they confiscated 16 marijuana plants and suspected drug paraphernalia from the Murray residence.
In the courtroom of Judge Michael Lucas, Murray said he wanted a jury to hear his case. He also requested a new attorney and balked at potentially having to pay $6,000 in restitution to cover Gardner’s funeral expenses. The judge explained the difference between court costs and restitution and told the defendant to continue discussions with Alterio before returning to court next week on a date to be determined.
Alterio said after the hearing that even if Murray were to be acquitted by a jury of the homicide, he could be sentenced to more than five years’ imprisonment on the marijuana and paraphernalia charges and the parole violations.
The judge has the final say about the length of a sentence.
“Despite discussions, it’s up to me to decide whether to accept these recommendations,” Lucas explained. “I can’t give a guarantee.”
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Murray back to the county jail, where he is being held without bond.