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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Man pleads guilty in baseball bat death

By Maria Miller

EBENSBURG, Pa. -- A Cambria County man accused of killing his girlfriend's son with a baseball bat has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. Gregory Conzo has maintained his innocence for more than a year, but on Wednesday, for the first time he told the judge what happened, saying he didn't mean to cause harm, he was just scared.

Police said the incident happened Nov. 5, 2012, a day before Conzo was to be sentenced for assaulting his girlfriend - a woman he lived with for decades and even has a daughter with. But police said he wasn't supposed to be there because a condition of his bond was to stay away. But he told the judge Wednesday he was only asking for support when he was forced to defend himself.

Investigators said Conzo got into an argument with his girlfriend, Lois Pcola, at the home they shared in Wilmore Heights. Police said her son, Mike Pcola, heard them yelling and came downstairs to break it up, but that's when police said Conzo swung an aluminum bat, hitting his own daughter in the arm and striking Mike Pcola in the head, ultimately causing his death two days later.

On Wednesday Conzo told the judge he had been drinking all day before showing up at the house to get support for a hearing he had the next day. When Mike Pcola came down the steps he said he swung the bat out of defense , saying he was scared of Mike Pcola, a man he claimed had threatened him in the past.

"There had been prior incidents over the years," said Kenneth Sottile, Conzo's defense attorney. "He was scared, however ... he overreacted when he swung the bat. He intended to hit him in the arm, as he said glanced off his arm, and struck him in the head."

Conzo was facing criminal homicide and several other charges, including assault and stalking for being at the home in the first place. On Wednesday he struck an agreement with the district attorney's office. By waiving his right to a trial and pleading guilty to  third-degree murder the rest of his charges were dropped.

"There was a chance we could have sought a first-degree murder conviction but we felt the facts and circumstances of this case actually fit a little bit better into a third-degree murder category," said Forrest Fordham, assistant district attorney for Cambria County.

"First-degree murder would have been instructed to the jury. By doing this he avoided the risk of a life without parole sentence on a first-degree murder," said Sottile. "It's unfortunate because it's kind of turned everybody's lives upside down."

Not part of the plea agreement Wednesday was a sentence. The guideline suggests a minimum of 10 to 20 years in prison, with a 40 year maximum. That will ultimately be up to the judge to decide.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times