East Finley man accepts life over possibility of death in murder case

February 28, 2013
A sheriff’s deputy escorts Frank Jones Jr. to Washington County Courthouse Thursday morning. Jones pleaded guilty to murdering an 80-year-old East Finley widow in January 2012 and will spend the rest of his life in prison. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The widowed Opal Bedillion knew her killer well as she could see his house from her front door, where she was stabbed to death last year.

The sister of her killer, Frank Russell Jones Jr., 24, of East Finley Township, had even married into the Bedillion family before the woman was killed Jan. 8, 2012, relatives of the victim said.

“It’s been hard on us,” said her son, Dennis Bedillion of Washington, Thursday, when Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree homicide in Washington County Court.

Jones approached Judge Katherine B. Emery and said he fully understood the consequences of his plea that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He could have faced the death penalty had he stood trial.

“I’m very sorry for what happened and will take full responsibility for my actions,” said Jones, whose trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

First Assistant Washington County District Attorney Mike Lucas said Jones’ attorney, Tom Cooke, contacted him last week about his client’s offer to plead guilty. Lucas then met Saturday with the Bedillion family to discuss accepting the plea.

Cooke said Jones accepted the plea fully aware of the penalty he would receive.

Jones didn’t get very far after he repeatedly stabbed Bedillion, 80, and slit her throat. He knew she lived alone at 469 Templeton Run Road and was looking to steal her prescription narcotics to feed his drug addiction. South Strabane Township police approached his parked vehicle that night in a vacant church parking lot and became suspicious after seeing jewelry on the seat before anyone knew Bedillion was dead.

Township police seized the items and contacted state police to see if there were any recent burglary reports, Lucas said. Armed with Opal Bedillion’s name among the items seized, police contacted her family to have someone check on her, he said. Jones, of 112 Willow Run Road, was arrested in the homicide several hours later.

“It was a textbook example of how officers conduct a traffic stop and quickly follow up on what they find,” Lucas said. “Scientific evidence confirmed that Mr. Jones was in fact the killer.”

Jones, a graduate of McGuffey High School, told the court he is mentally ill and takes medication for his condition. He also pleaded guilty to robbery, aggravated assault, theft and possession of a weapon.

Emery told Jones that Bedillion probably would have given him what he wanted when he went to her door.

“Mrs. Bedillion’s final moments were pure fright,” she said. “Your final days will be spent in prison ... because of your selfish line of behavior.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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