CENTRE COUNTY: PART I – The Murder of Dr. Ron Bettig, and the Quiet Co-Defendant Danelle Geier, & the Inside Story

A HEARTFELT PROMISE AND MESSAGE TO MY SOURCES:

First of all, I’m not going to cite any names of the families or friends of the victims, or the accused Defendants George Ishler. What I am going to cite is the reporting of the local papers, and if you want further information about about my sources, you are free to contact me at happyvalleycitizen@gmail.com, and I will personally reach out to them to see if they are willing to speak to you, until then, these Centre County locals brave enough to disclose intricate details on the dynamics of this case will remain protected, by Happy Valley Citizen.

AN (OBVIOUS) DISCLOSURE TO PROTECT CANTORNA’S OFFICE

Also, for the record, I would like to add that none of these details about the case have come from the current Centre County District Attorney’s Office. It is their policy not to talk about pending cases, and they adhere – religiously – to that in the name of ethics, integrity and protecting the constitutional fairness of the criminal justice system. Though I maintain a relationship with some local politicians, our discussions mainly relate to topics of criminal justice reform and personal friendships. Never, in my wildest expectations, would I ask – or expect – any response regarding any pending cases.

So I am about to publish some things that the media has not yet published about the ongoing murder trial for victim and former Penn State professor Ron Bettig. They come from a variety of sources, on both sides, and this is my interpretation of what I have come to understand about this complicated trial. Also included are some secrets – probably soon to be disclosed through testimony – about the intricacies of this case.

Who was Ronald Bettig?

Dr. Bettig was a communications professor at Penn State. He was a gentle man, with one of those quirky intellectual personalities that often accompany men of great academic achievement. He was a deep thinker. A colleague described his teaching method:

  • “Across the domains of teaching, research and service, the common factor that characterized him was his nonconformist ways,” Olorunnisola said. “Over 22 years of working together in varied capacities, I came to know him as a man with tons of healthy skepticism and courage of conviction who readily questioned the status quo and led others, especially his students, to interrogate received knowledge. “In his classes, where he adopted the Socratic method, that included re-examining assumptions about the ‘innately good values’ of capitalism. Those who didn’t know him well enough considered him a ‘nutty professor’ or a ‘communist’ who bucked the trend. He was well-aware of the reputation and remained comfortable with who he was.” 

Ronald Bettig was by all accounts liberal, academically minded, progressive, and deeply caring about his students. I asked a friend and of Ron’s and regular visitor to his house: “What was he like? What did he talk about?” The response I got was simple: He was a very nice guy, he would say some off the wall sort of things. He was always thinking. [CITATION REQUESTS WILL BE CONSIDERED AT CONSENT OF FAMILY OR FRIEND PROVIDING]

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Ronald Bettig at Penn State Graduation, via his Facebook

Dr. Bettig, deeply thoughtful and outside the box thinker, enjoyed connections with his students. He enjoyed the intellectual dialogue. He enjoyed the intellectual dialogue. He enjoyed the discussion of esoteric academic theories and he enjoyed ideas. But as open as he was as an intellectual, he was a deeply sensitive and private man, who had experienced a terrible loss. According to many accounts by his colleagues, friends and acquaintances, Ron spiraled – quite understandably – into what Bernie Cantorna described (in opening statements) as a “deep dark depression” after losing his wife. A witness, his neighbor and one of the first to take the stand, affirmed this account.

  • When painting a picture of the final five years of Bettig’s life, Cantorna also mentioned the death of Bettig’s wife in 2011. He said her death led Bettig into a “deep, dark depression. Cantorna, in an effort to demonstrate how severe Bettig’s depression was, cited a neighbor’s interaction with Bettig in 2015. The neighbor said she and Bettig were having a conversation before he passed out because he hadn’t eaten in three days.“He looked like a concentration camp victim. He looked so sick and so pale,” the woman testified. CITATION

He was reclusive. Bettig was lost without his wife. Penn State, sympathetic with his loss, granted their esteemed professor of communications and deep thinker – the man who was so well known to lecture in a way designed to connect with his students – a paid seven year sabbatical. They recommended he rest. Bettig planned to do some research, possible publish some work, and recover from losing his beloved wife.

Friends and acquaintances also remark that Bettig had a child but they had become estranged. I asked multiple folks: “Why was Bettig estranged from his son?” None of them could quite give me a clear answer as he was a private man.

Despite his desires to talk about metaphysical communicative theories and sociological trends, Bettig seldom disclosed anything about his private life. But it was clear to Penn State faculty, peers & colleagues; and it was clear to his friends, acquaintances and neighbors, that the death of Ronald’s wife had clearly left him vulnerable and devastated. He was changed: a grief-stricken shell of a man. While he was never a heavy drinker, he did, as many intellectuals do, enjoy marijuana. He liked to smoke and talk about hefty intellectual theories and ideas. He liked the human interaction from an academic, detached and theoretical way.

THE MURDER: Ron Bettig is Found 5 Days Dead at the Bottom of a Quarry, IMMOBILIZED AND DYING ALONE

At the top of the quarry, curiously enough, the police found a map, a flashlight and a gardening tool that you would use for digging out weeds in your garden, or clawing up roots of soil to plant new seeds in the spring.

It was a staged crime scene – but police didn’t know that immediately. What they found was a 5 day old corpse at the bottom of the quarry canyon. A canyon on the edge of a quarry that has a drop not quite far enough to kill, but enough to disable.

Bettig fell (or most likely was pushed) an estimated 75 feet down the quarry wall into the depths of a secluded quarry where people seldom went. Frank Gaus Jr., a collision analysis and reconstruction expert for Pennsylvania state police, testified that it would have taken Bettig about two seconds to fall and he estimated Bettig would have been falling at about 47 mph. He also testified that Bettig would have landed feet first because of the injuries that he sustained. CITATION

To add to these sickening details describing the likely physics of the fall, Gaus testified that it was likely that when Bettig fell his back would have been facing the quarry canyon, and he was likely hanging on, in order to have landed on his feet. Bettig was fighting to survive. Gaus, the collision expert, also testified he landed on his feet. His femurs, and the strongest bones of his body, likely shattered during the seventy five foot fall, rendering him alive but immobile.

Dr. Kamerov, the Centre County Medical Examiner, estimates he must have lain there for possibly 24 hours immobile and dying before he finally expired. He was discovered five days later, along with a very curious crime scene.

WHO WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS? Who would murder a beloved Penn State Communications Professor, a bleeding-heart liberal who was broken-hearted over the loss of the love of his life?

Well, you see, the answer to this question is very complicated.

  • The story of Bettig’s death begins at the cigarette store, where he encountered 39-year-old George Ishler Jr. sometime in mid-to-late 2015. Ishler, then an employee, was eventually fired for stealing from a wallet that had been left behind by a customer, a store manager told PennLive. CITATION

Bettig, according to his friends, was known to take in refugees and those down on their luck. After all, he was an educator by trade and he had a passion for helping his students. He was not the type of intellectual and professorial snob that one might envision of a Penn State professor. Bettig would enter the store to buy cigarettes for his down-on-their –luck friends who could not afford them from George Ishler.

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George Ishler

George Ishler would be later fired from his position as clerk at the convenience store. A customer left a wallet behind and George picked up the wallet and stole it. He then lied about it. The entire thing was caught on tape and George was promptly fired.

But by then it was too late. Bettig, who had regularly stopped in the convenience store to buy cigarettes for his wayward friends and to chat with the clerk, had formed a somewhat uncanny friendship with George. George had become like one of those stray-cats that Ronald – with his bleeding heart – had a fondness for rescuing and taken in.

Bettig was more than willing to help. He was on sabbatical and offered his support and counsel to George. They enjoyed marijuana together. I imagine by the accounts shared with me that Bettig became a kind of mentor to his friend.

George Ishler, who had no college education, a history of heroin addiction and had bounced from job to job, quickly latched onto Bettig. Ronald was likely not thinking very clearly in his haze of grief and depression after losing his wife and thought of Ishler as more of a student. He did not see the sociopathic, sinister personality of George Ishler. Bettig was, by accounts of friends and family, trying to help.

“I think many who interacted with him regularly knew that he was going through a rough time,” Bettig’s colleague, professor Russell Frank, said. “And I think I could say that ever since Jeanne died, he seemed to struggle to get back on an even keel.”  CITATION

In short, Bettig was a vulnerable man, and George was a predator.

The Relationship Between Murder Defendant George Ishler and Ronald Bettig Deepens

George was lonely for company. He was isolated in his house after the loss of his wife. And without his students to engage with him intellectually, he was a lost soul. His house was full of photographs, books and past memories. The interruptions, even by strangers, were welcome in that despair-filled isolation. I COULD NEVER imagine losing my loved one pre-maturely to death. I can’t imagine the gloom he faced, nor the fortitude he had to emerge from it. He was vulnerable.

Within months, Ishler had introduced Bettig to his niece, Danelle Geier. By January she was living at the professor’s home with her toddler son. Ishler was also a frequent presence there, police and neighbors say. –CITATION

DANELLE GEIER & RON BETTIG – A Deep Compassionate Connection, and Rumors of a Romantic Affair – WHO IS CO-DEFENDENT DANELLE GEIER?

It was within a period of a few short months of meeting George Ishler’s niece Danelle Geier that Bettig took an interest to her. By many accounts the two could be nothing less alike. Danelle, according her family, was developmentally delayed. This is well documented by academic records. She had special accommodations in school and was legally classified as developmentally challenged.

In addition, her family also describes her as gullible. One family member in particular emphasized this to me, and I asked him/her: “How exactly did that manifest? How were here developmental delays clear to you growing up with her in everyday life?” And he/she had to think hard about the question, pausing for a moment. Finally the response came: Well I guess it was sort of like you could make up any story and she would just believe it. 

So was it ADD or ADHD, I implored further. No I know what that is, it was something different, I’m not a doctor, there was just always something a little slower about her, please do not quote me on this. 

This piqued my interest as it left open the question of how aware Danelle was of the events occurring around her. When she was sat in the parked car by the edge of the quarry as her Uncle George Ishler pushed Ronald Bettig off a cliff, Uncle George purportedly returned to the vehicle where he had left Danelle and relayed the entire story. And the words came back to me from that relative when I read this report in the media: Well I guess it was sort of like you could make up any story and she would just believe it. 

Danelle has two children. I wanted to know about that too. It is a sensitive topic because Danelle’s mother maintains custody of only one child – the youngest. Danelle has been allowed supervised visits in jail. Purportedly she cries at the sight of seeing her youngest child. The older child is from a previous marriage while living in Florida to a guy named “Tom”.

Danelle’s family and supporters are guarded. They sigh when they talk about Tom. There was a lot of drama during the divorce. Danelle’s divorce lawyer had her file a PFA (Protection from Abuse) after a physician examining the child found bite marks on the child. Danelle denies that the abuse occurred to her, but she was slower in communicating, and the doctors and judges did not buy it.

According to her family, Dannelle had several abusive relationships with men. That “gullible” personality was a sitting duck for abusive men who came around. They encountered a developmentally-disabled woman, a woman they could easily manipulate and take advantage of.

Compounding this is what the immediate family won’t talk about, for the most part, but the extended family will: the ongoing abuse inside the Geier home for the siblings growing up at the hands of her step-father. I confronted one of the four siblings; informing them I knew some things or had heard some things. I wanted to know what had happened inside the family home.

Let’s be honest – you don’t grow up with one sister in jail for murder, another sister and brother struggling with opioid addiction and caught up in the criminal courts, and yet another brother doing time for child molestation to the tune of a 175 year jail sentence without some childhood trauma. Bad things happened in that home – physical abuse for certain. Sexual abuse? While most relatives deny it, one person (whose name I am protecting) said to me I never witnessed it but it wouldn’t surprise me, there was a lot of alcohol involved. 

And no, that witness is not the Geier sitting in jail for 175 years for child sex abuse. I want you to recall something specific: Jerry Sandusky’s brother Jeffrey Sandusky was recently indicted on child sex abuse. Child sex abuse is partially a sickness, a genetic sort of mutation, a mental defect that results in impulse behavior, but it is learned behavior. We can’t chalk anything up to nurture vs. nature. To the contrary, it is an ephemeral and unpredictable mix of both that seems to create this kind of monster.

If you ask me, after talking to people who knew the Geiers and having the opportunity to talk to the Geiers themselves, I would bank my life on it: Some seriously sad and violent and disturbed things went down in the Geier home at the hands of the step-father. This was a terribly abusive home which led to all four children having either run-ins with the law or substance abuse issues.

And for Danelle, she had both.

WHEN RON MET DANELLE: A Twisted Love Story

I would guess that Danelle has never had a regular, loving relationship in which she received unconditional love. I think she has two children to men who abused her emotional vulnerabilities and intellectual disabilities. The first one, “Tom” who she married in Florida, was abusive to their child, and although she denies he was abusive to her the family contests that. The second man, who she has her youngest child with, (we’ll call him “Brandon”) was young, dumb, and irresponsible. Fatherhood was not on his mind. The family claims this was less a case of abuse and more just a pattern of neglect. He was a womanizer. He also happened to be attracted to younger women. She was a struggling mother with her second child, her first living far away in Florida.

I asked some people who knew her: “Why did Danelle leave her child in Florida with Tom after the abuse allegations and PFA?” The universal answer seems to be that Dannelle just gave up, she got defeated. There was no court order awarding custody, but there was a contentious divorce. Danelle had little money while her ex-husband’s family had quite a bit of it. Danelle just sort of gave up, and then she got pregnant in Centre County, and she had a choice to make. Either go down to Tom and take the youngest (after yet another custody battle) or pick one. She picked the youngest. Her mother wanted her to stay local and promised to help raise the child. Regardless of the fact that, by most accounts, her mother was an alcoholic and unreliable as well.

These were the circumstances Ron Bettig found Danelle under when he met her. An established tenured Penn State Professor on a seven year sabbatical, his heart went out to the young mother. After the loss of his wife and estrangement with his own son, I suspect he was aching for female companionship.  Danelle, a young mother, wanted stability and help raising her youngest child.

Ron and Danelle gave differing accounts as to their relationships. In some social gatherings and to some of their mutual friends, they described themselves as a couple. It seemed Danelle – ever the woman who “just went along with things” – seemed to accept this and had no problem with it. She trusted Ron, and Ron was buying diapers and doted over her youngest child.

Ron loved the child. He doted over the child – buying diapers and baby food and loving the noise in his previously oppressive isolation. By most accounts he loved having Danelle around. And although she could not keep up with him intellectually, and he was a great deal her senior, my assessment is that Ron saw in Danelle someone (or so he thought) he could trust and take care of. Ron didn’t like constant solitude. He didn’t like being away from his students and lacking the human interaction. He enjoyed her company. The two purportedly smoked weed regularly together. This wasn’t a problem, quite the contrary. Ron had written his dissertation and gotten tenured at Penn State while partaking in marijuana. It was a part of his intellectual process, it was his wine.

  • Traces of their presence at the professor’s home remained visible even weeks after his death. On a recent Wednesday, a car seat, pieces of children’s clothing and a diaper box lay in a heap in the driveway of Bettig’s home in Lemont, just outside State College. Inside, members of Bettig’s family sat in silence with only the soft light of living room lamps visible through a window. They would not comment when approached by a reporter at the door. CITATION

In addition, the deafening silence after the loss of his wife was met now by the sound of a bundle of joy. While intellectually he might not have had much in common with Danelle, together it seemed they had a joint mission-hood. Bettig had gone through fatherhood once before, he was a responsible and doting father by many accounts, liberal. Teaching his child the same way he taught his students – not by beating them the way the Geier family raised their kids – but through the Socratic method, in the same way he taught his students.

The Persistently Sinister, Manipulative and Conniving Presence of Danelle’s Uncle George Ishler

“George would just come around mooching,” one witness told me. He was in the progressive throws of addiction: heroine, meth, opiods, pills, bathsalts, booze, you name it. If it was something George could ingest he would ingest it. And if it wasn’t he would find a way.

Ishler became a constant presence at Bettig’s home now that his niece had moved in. He always came wanting something: money for drugs, money for booze, money for cigarettes. He didn’t care that Bettig was caring for an infant, or that the couple was resting peacefully on the couch. He would borrow money on one occasion, and then get his foot in the door on the next occasion by swearing he was only coming to pay it back, just to get in the house and ask for more.

George had numerous run-ins with the law. Serious run-ins. While under the Parks Miller administration, he was busted using a stolen X-Box. He made a “deal with the devil” as many people did under the conniving extortion tactics of that disgraced District Attorney. He agreed to pose as a CI (confidential informant) the next time he bought weed. In return, she exchanged burglary with a marijuana charge in typical Parks Miller fashion – at least that is how the story goes.

George Ishler, who was short in stature,  was described by his own family member: We knew he was f#cked up but we had no idea he was capable. He bounced from job to job and lived with his girlfriend, whom he referred to as his “old lady.” In fact, after confessing, his last request was in reference to her:

  • It began at about 1:20 a.m., which is when Wakefield read Ishler his Miranda Rights. Wakefield testified Ishler did not sign the form, but he was aware of his rights. It lasted until 5:45 a.m., when he gave his statement to police. Ishler also asked Wakefield if Bettig had committed suicide. He eventually told State College police Detective Chris Weaver he was ready to “come clean” as long as he “got one more night with his old lady.” CITATION

THE MURDER PLOT: Rehobeth Beach and the FAKE Will: TO BE CONTINUED….

Yes, there was one failed murder plot prior to the final incident at the quarry….

  • “[Ishler] stated that he did dunk Bettig while in the ocean, but that he felt he couldn’t [hold him under] and didn’t continue,” Pennsylvania State Trooper Brian Wakefield said. Geier wasn’t satisfied, though, and let Ishler know as much.“So ready. I am pissed off,” she texted him at one point during the trip, later explaining to police that she had been angered by Bettig’s criticism of her parenting and was, in fact, referring to the plot to kill him.CITATION

Stay tuned, this trial is ongoing. I am tired tonight, but much more information is forthcoming. For those of you who are friends of Bettig, or supporters or family of Danelle Geier, I will continue to protect your names

THE LAST DISCLOSURE BEFORE PART II: Know that I have spoken to a lot of people involved in this case or who knew the victim or Co-Defendant Danelle Geier. Also know that I haven’t formed an opinion…. And there is much more to this story, which I will disclose once I catch up with you later on this week.

 

Thanks for all your emails and support.

Love, HVC

 

STAY TUNED….. MORE DETAILS COMING…. JUST TOO TIRED TONIGHT TO FINISH….

 

REACH ME AT HAPPYVALLEYCITIZEN@GMAIL.COM

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