Barren, desolate and hard featured. The Blackhawk Quarry is not a beautiful place to hike, or explore nature. It has a notoriously haunting history, and was home to a massacre of American settlers hundreds of years ago.
Still, George Ishler managed to lure Ron Bettig out to the bleak and isolated quarry (seldom frequented by nature enthusiasts) on the promise of a marijuana harvest. There is a sick contrariness to the circumstances, particularly given Bettig’s liberal political stances, intellectual, higher-minded cerebral mindset that comes into play.
There is a sick irony at play here.
- A Potter Township home, then a log cabin, which was the scene of a brutal massacre by Indians in 1778, is still standing and is in regular use as a residence. The present owner is Mrs. Earl Grove. The house is south of the Linden Hall-Old Fort Rd. and is about one-half mile from the Black Hawk Stone Quarry. CITATION
Less than a mile away from this 200 year old mass murder site, a most compassionate, liberal-minded, sensitive and intellectual man was murdered. And further adding to the irony, though Ronald Bettig had not lost his wife and family to “scalping,” they too had died under tragic circumstances.
It seems this cavernous quarry in Centre County has a long haunted and lamenting historical past, with much suffering laden in that rocky soil.
- A Col. Hunter, in a letter dated at Fort Augusta May 14, 1778, said an express had come from Penns Valley with information that Indians had killed and scalped Jacob Standford, his wife and two children, being all that was of the family. CITATION
The year was 1778 and America had just won its independence and declared itself a country after winning the Revolutionary War. Beyond the battlefront with the British was an ongoing battle with Native Americans, which this local family found itself caught up in.
While separated by centuries, the similarities in these tragedies is eerie, to say the least.
Like Bettig, the body of the daughter was discovered days later by a resident. By that time she was dead and beyond help. Ronald’s body was also discovered days later.
What a twisted and contorted irony, that these senseless deaths should occur – almost nearly in the same spot – hundreds of years later.
- In the Standford massacre there seems to be some confusion on the identity of the victims. Some records indicate Jacob, his wife and daughter were killed and scalped and a son, aged 10 or 11 years, was missing. The son by some accounts was carried off by the Indians and was released some time later and returned to relatives. The daughter’s body in some accounts was found along a path leading to the family’s nearest neighbor, John Willcott at Earlytown, to which place she was apparently fleeing. CITATION
And while the community grieves the death of only one man, he was a man who had a family of his own. He was a father, and a widow, who lost his wife unexpectedly. In some respects, Dr. Bettig did leave behind the same sort of tragedy that was discovered in Stonehawk Quarry hundreds of years ago, and left a community once again reeling in confusion, outrage and grief.
- On entering the cabin he discovered that none of the family was in the house, but going around the cabin towards the spring he saw the body of Mrs. Standford, scalped. At a few rods’ distance lay the bodies of two children. Life was hardly extinct in the body of Mrs. Standford.
The historical irony is not lost on me. And I certainly believe in the emanation of physical places. Some places give off bad “auras” and repeated tragedy in these singular places can only be left up to the skeptical and the scientific-minded to debate as to whether they are coincidence or fate of the physical locality. This is such a discussion that Dr. Bettig would have enjoyed philosophizing about.
George Ishler lured Ron Bettig out to the edge, just a short distance away from where a historical Centre County massacre had occurred hundreds of years before. He said they were harvesting marijuana. He instructed his niece to remain in the car, and parked the vehicle out of sight while the two left due to George’s promise that they were going to get some good weed.
DAY TWO OF TRIAL – More Heartbreaking Signs Leading up to Dr. Bettig’s Death
In a deadly quiet courtroom, onlookers and jury member sat on the edge of their seats listening with both dread and fascination as the prosecution called more and more witnesses to the stand, each with their own progressively horrifying account of the final days of Dr. Bettig’s life.
Dr. Ronald Bettig’s emotional housekeeper took the stand. According to accounts, when she began speaking you could hear a pin drop in that central courtroom. Her testimony was far more emotional and deeply personal than yesterday’s analytical, science-based testimony of Medical Examiner Dr. Kamerov. It wasn’t about medical science or the physics of the death, today was more and more about the person. Today wasn’t about the science of Bettig’s death; it was more about his life.
Danelle Geier heading into trial
The jurors, by accounts, were far more attentive. They seemed moved. They watched Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw, nicknamed by law enforcement as the “witness whisperer”, gently and skillfully coax out the emotional details from a woman who clearly didn’t look like she wanted to be in the room, nor relive the grief of losing her friend and employer Dr. Bettig:
- The housekeeper for a deceased 56-year-old Penn State professor testified about the last day before his death and his thoughts about the man accused of murdering him. Amanda Fetzer testified Ronald Bettig, who died after a 75-foot fall at Blackhawk Quarry in August 2016, “Seemed lost and scatterbrained and didn’t really have anybody.”
Fetzer had met Bettig through an advertisement he had posted in 2015. After the loss of his wife in 2011 and his ongoing depression, Bettig needed someone to come and tidy up. He was likely used to being taken care of by a wife. In the throes of depression, oftentimes it is the case that people neglect themselves, and secondary to that comes their environment. Fetzer was a warm welcome to a chaotic home that needed a deep cleaning, and immediately formed a friendship with Bettig. She brought her fiancé along with her. They kept a fire lit, and they took care of a grief-stricken man, helping not only to get his environment clean, orderly and under control, but providing moral support. And in turn, the young people began to grow fond of the quirky intellectual professor. Likewise, as Bettig relished being around his students, and had been isolated, living in squalor for some time, he appreciated the order they brought to his environment, the company and deep compassion, the friendship. Fetzer literally kept the hearth fires burning in some of Bettig’s darkest times.
- “We kind of just became a family,” Fetzer testified.
Recall that an increasingly isolated Bettig had lost his wife in 2011, and due to his depression had taken a seven year/possibly indefinite sabbatical from his tenured position at Penn State as a communications professor.
Fetzer went on to provide some very ominous testimony:
- She testified one of the first things Bettig asked of her fiance, Joel Marlow, was for him to change the locks at his Lemont residence. Fetzer and Marlow testified Bettig made the request because he was scared of George Ishler Jr. and he was coming into the home uninvited.
Recall that in Part I of this series, a family member of Ishler’s and mutual friend of Bettig’s had also advised Bettig of taking similar precautions. A family member of both defendants, Ishler and Geier, had also known Bettig in the small Lemont village on the outskirts of State College for some time. In the days leading up to his murder, Bettig had approached this anonymous family member with concerns. This family member, who we will call “Jade” (simply because it is a unisex name, whereas John or Jane Doe would imply a gender), listened. Jade, knowing his/her relative, expressed a more hypersensitive concern than Bettig could perhaps conceive. After all, blood is thicker than water, and people tend to know their relatives. Jade advised Bettig, pulling him off to the side and looking at him seriously: Nothing good will come will come with this. And, he/she said you need to file a PFA (protection from abuse order / restraining order). Even Ishler’s own relatives could sense the impending calamity. There was a seasoned premonition among Ishler’s family. They knew, in the words of “Jade”, that NOTHING GOOD WILL COME OF THIS. Bettig didn’t think in those terms. He had likely never encountered a personality quite like Ishler’s before, he was vulnerable in his grief stricken state, susceptible and his experience – as a college professor – was not one of dealing with troubled youths. While he had mentored young adults, they were driven and soon to be college educated. Ishler was out of Bettig’s realm. And Dr. Bettig, a man accustomed to the comfortable and safe world of academia, had little street smarts; he was a bleeding-heart liberal for lost souls and a very lonely man himself.
Even when faced with the warnings from Ishler’s own family, he had his doubts. He didn’t seem to take the warning very seriously. This concerned “Jade” who again advised Bettig to “just be careful, okay.”
In the meantime Fetzer was becoming a part of Bettig’s life. She and her fiancé regularly cleaned the house, kept the hearth fires (literally) burning, and provided warmth and compassion and regularity. They asked for nothing in return except for a minimal fee for their service. And the young couple felt a deep sense of compassion for what they recognized as a deeply sensitive man. A very wise man once told me that sometimes the most intuitive, empathetic, artistic and intelligent people on earth are prone to lead the hardest lives. Bettig fit this mold.
They changed the locks for him. They also expressed concern.
Bettig gratefully latched onto their warmth. He was starving for companionship and the friendship of people who weren’t after the hefty sum of money he was making as a tenured Penn State professor or after any favors. Fetzer and her fiancé didn’t seem to want anything. They would finish tidying up his house, building a fire in his hearth, and they would stay and chat. They sensed the despair and grief inside a deeply sensitive man who was still grieving over the loss of his spouse.
- She continued to testify about the familial relationship her family had with Bettig. She testified Bettig came to her baby reveal and would come to her Belleville residence for holidays like the Fourth of July.
If you talk to people who were familiar with Bettig, he was not a man who liked to disclose personal details of his life. He suffered quietly. He would rather discuss Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and how it relates to the possible existence of God rather than disclose the harrowing details of the psychological distress he was experiencing due to the loss of his wife. He wasn’t one to talk about himself. He did not engage in gossip, it likely bored him. He thought on bigger terms, as sometimes seemingly detached academic and intellectual types tend to do. He compartmentalized his own personal hell.
Ron was a trusting, forgiving, academic, open-minded, liberal man. He wasn’t the type to file a PFA or change the locks. Something about Ishler’s behavior was scaring him deeply. And it scared him enough that his own sense of premonition outweighed his normal proclivities of emotional privacy. He was expressing fear and discomfort, and it was out of character for him to discuss such things. So yes, those who knew him became deeply worried.
In the days leading up to his death, this trend seemed to vary uncharacteristically. Fetzer further testifies disturbingly ominous details, warning signs of an impending tragedy:
- “Ron was at his wit’s end the day before he was murdered. He said he knew she (Danelle Geier) was using him. He said he wanted out, but was worried about the baby,” Fetzer testified. “He didn’t know how to leave the situation.”
I asked Bettig’s acquaintances if they had ever seen him express paranoia, and the resounding answer I heard was No, he wasn’t one who ever bothered to gossip. In other words, Bettig never cried wolf. Even during his phase of a deep depression he had never expressed fear. But then suddenly, Bettig was “crying wolf” everywhere and uncertain what to do next. He wasn’t in it for the drama of causing extra trouble and filing a PFA or taking extreme measures. But he was sending a message, and it was a message taken very seriously by his friends who were accustomed to him talking about the sociological dynamics in the modern world of social media, or other esoteric “off the wall” subjects in his small circles. For once, Bettig seemed to be getting personal. He was seeking advice. He had a premonition in the weeks leading up to his murder that he would die under foul circumstances, and he had the sixth sense to know who would do it – which in part is why it baffles me that he agreed to walk to the edge of a quarry to harvest marijuana.
- Jessica Miller, a Uni-Mart employee who frequently interacted with Bettig when he would purchase cigarettes from the store, testified about a similar conversation she had with the professor days before he was reported missing.
Jessica Miller also testified to a statement purportedly made by Bettig. At this point in time, Ishler owed lots of money to Bettig who he always hit up for drug money. Ishler, unemployed and living at his girlfriend’s house, never had a dime to his name but he did have a sociopathic personality type and an escalating drug habit. And per the account of “Jade”, Ishler was always around. And there was a weird dynamic between him and his niece.
I blogged about this previously. With a history of sexual and physical abuse in an alcohol-fueled house of several generations, the Geier kids grew up with the odds against them. Jessica testifies that Bettig told her the following:
- “I’m getting ready to kick them shitheads out,” Bettig told Miller, according to her testimony. “They’re using me for my money.”
The problem I have with this testimony is that Miller did not know or spend as much time with Bettig as many of the other people that I have spoken to. He paused to talk to her and ask her about her life when he was buying cigarettes for Ishler. And further contradicting the plural use of the words “shitheads”, it seems to me that Bettig also had an uncanny fondness for Danelle Geier’s child, for whom he was buying diapers and baby food, and essentially enjoying.
Furthermore, Danelle didn’t seem to have a drug addiction according to her close family members. A mental disability? Yes. It’s well documented that she was a special needs student. But there was never any sort of diagnosis made. I am going to suggest the unthinkable and unspeakable. I know what I am about to say might upset some of the Geier family members who have so bravely trusted me to tell me their stories, at the risk I could blow their identities at any time. I would never. But what I am about to suggest might really hurt, but it’s a personal assessment, an intuition.
Regarding her mental disabilities, I specifically asked a diagnosis. “Was it down syndrome? Was it autism? Was it attention deficit disorder?” And the answers I got were dodgy and vague: I’m not a doctor but I don’t think there was any ever clear diagnosis. Instead of sitting in classes with 30 people in learning regular things, she sat in classes with eight people so the teachers could pay more attention.
Again, I am about to suggest the unthinkable. I am suggesting the undiagnosed noticeable “cognitive slowness” (You could make up any type of story and she would just believe you), was not the product of any autism or Asperger’s or cognitive disability in those categories. With the family history of physical and sexual abuse, as well as drug abuse and alcoholism, I might just propose to you after studying – very closely – Danelle, that she just might be the product of incest. I specifically asked this of a family member about when they were growing up, and the family member did not take the position of someone who was offended by the suggestion: I never witnessed it, but I wouldn’t pass by it, there was a lot of alcohol involved. We have yet to have a psychiatrist or psychologist testify on the stand about the mental disabilities that were clearly observable to members of her close family. And any speculation as ugly as “incest” would normally be met with indignant moral offense. In this case, there was no shame, there was no denial, there was also no affirmation, but it left the possibility open, with the caveat – There were a lot of drugs and alcohol involved when we were growing up, there was a lot of physical abuse.
Compounding this, Danelle also married a man who was physically abusive. There are medical records documenting bite marks on her infant son’s body. Abuse victims gravitate towards abusers, and coalescing with this, there is a documented mental slowness that was remarked and noticed upon by even the closest members of her own family. You could make up any story and tell it to her, and she would just believe it. There was an analytical cognitive capacity lacking.
So when Ishler parked his car (allegedly), and told Danelle to remain in the car and then disappeared with Bettig to the edge of Blackhawk Quarry, Danelle was not calculating – potentially – as you or I might do. That “undiagnosed” mental disability in her academic records is potential evidence of heavy abuse: Incest. And in no way would I ever suggest this lightly. What I am saying is that while it was never diagnosed, it was apparent by her educators as special accommodations were made for her public school education. And with an abusive home and a brother serving 175 years for the rape of a 14 year old, let’s try and piece the puzzle together. This is not defamatory. This is a clear, cohesive digestion of the facts as they were relayed to me and as I read in the papers that led me up to the conclusion that something is unusual. The Geier family has that history of sexual abuse of minors. And if Danelle is a product of incest, then her mental incapacities are no fault of her own.
Even her own family thinks she should do some jail time. But they argue the plea bargain of 25 years that was offered during pre trial was excessive. In sentencing, it is legal precedent we take developmental disabilities into mitigating factors. The U.S. Supreme Court has established precedent that is illegal to put people who are legally declared mentally handicapped on death row. Yes, I know Danelle is not on death row, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture here.
- Karen Muir, defense attorney for Ishler, asked Fetzer why she never called police, the Office of Aging, Bettig’s therapist or anyone else that could have offered professional help to Bettig.
Sometimes I wonder if Karen Muir takes bong hits before she arrives in court. Let’s unpack this:
1. The average American does not know what the “Office of the Aging” is, let alone the number to dial and procedure to file when they file complaints
2. The friends of Bettig changed his locks and told him to file a PFA, so they did attempt to help.
3. How would any of Bettig’s friends know who his therapist was, especially since he was known to be a deeply private man?
4. There are federal laws pertaining to HIPAA or the Health and Information Accountability and Portability Act. Psychological and addiction records are afforded to additional measures of privacy.
5. I have a therapist, and I suspect many of my readers do as well. There is nothing wrong with having a therapist, but why in God’s name would I dispense the number of my therapist to my casual friends?
Muir needs to work on her defense tactics because she is a hot mess setting this up for an ugly PCRA under ineffective assistance of counsel.
- “We never called anybody,” Fetzer testified. “I didn’t feel like that was my place.”
I would expect my the same of my friends.
- Ishler’s girlfriend of more than five years also testified and Muir questioned her about the circumstances around Ishler’s visit to the State College police department to file the missing persons report for Bettig.
Attorney Muir, Ms. Muir! Please – if Ishler is going to go so far as to stage a crime scene, dump a car and plant fake evidence to make it look like Bettig fell when he was hiking, then why would you put it past him to be the first one to alert police?! Maybe the reporter does so to avoid looking suspicious himself?
- She testified Ishler took at least three pills, which contained the same active ingredient, diphenhydramine, as benadryl. Ishler consumed the pills at least an hour before his meeting with police, according to her testimony.
Benedryl is an allergy medication. He did not undergo a lie detector test measuring his physiology. Compared to the multitude of drugs including heroin, meth and bath salts that are in his usual repertoire, swallowing a Benadryl is like drinking mother’s milk. Physiologically, the chances of this impairing this seasoned manipulator and drug addict’s ability to lie are, at best, slim to none.
Ms. Muir is the reason why we need better representation in the PD’s (public defenders) office. Lay off the greenery and come to court prepared with a better line of questioning, Ms. Muir! This is truly an abomination. IF I were Ms. Muir, I’d be focusing on reasonable doubt. This is a largely circumstantial crime with no evidence, just the mitigating circumstances that Ishler engaged in very suspicious behaviors that appear like he is attempting to cover something up. Additionally, the testimony about him, his character and his history is largely hearsay. Where are your medical experts?
I fully expect to see this up on PCRA. For heaven’s sake, the public defender’s office should engage in more careful hiring practices because this is a shit show.
- When officers visited her residence to speak with her, she said the trooper was “less than pleasant” during the interview. Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw asked if she told the officer about Ishler consuming the pills and she testified she did not.
It was “benadryl,” according to this witness whose own family wants to see him incarcerated and has all but abandoned him. And by his own account it was benedryl. He should know the legal system better enough by now to state he consumed LSD or heroin – at least then he would have a viable defense about giving an unreliable statement to police. I have been taking benedryl for two weeks since spring started. If you take a benedryl and you get pulled over, you’re not going to get a DUI.
Enough with the benedryl, Karen Muir: It’s a murder trial. Try and prepare a legit defense.
- Daisy Gibboney, Geier’s 24-year-old half-sister, testified about transporting Geier to and from the Lemont post office so Geier could intercept Bettig’s credit card statements before he had an opportunity to view them.
So prosecutors are accusing the “mentally incapacitated” niece of Ishler into manipulating Bettig into drafting and signing a false will, yet these sort of financial maneuverings are not coming into question with this type of behavior?
- Bettig eventually discovered one of his credit card statements, which showed Ishler and Geier had used his credit card throughout the summer. He allegedly became stressed because he did not believe he had enough money to pay for next month’s bills.
Bettig, a bleeding-heart liberal, 420-friendly academia type, probably became sympathetic after giving Ishler a firm talk about “never doing it again” and it was all a wash.
Ishler is a sociopath.
Geier said she didn’t understand why Bettig was stressed financially because she believed Bettig had “millions of dollars” in Disney stock. Fred Bettig, Ronald Bettig’s brother, previously testified the stock was worth $50,000.
The CDT reporting leaves much to be desired. WHO told Geier that Bettig had “millions of dollars”? Was that Ishler justifying his fraudulent use of Bettig’s credit card?
UPCOMING STORY, WAITING ON SOME FURTHER EVIDENCE: You do not want to miss this. The next blog by Happy Valley Citizen will include speculations and questions as to why no state trooper interviews are being played during the trial. Very interesting. One, if they lacked even half the litigation skill of Muir or Lux could make this into a circumstantial case with the variable of reasonable doubt. Unfortunately it appears they are setting this whole thing up for a PCRA. And the rumors I have heard about PSP misconduct are doing little to help their case of ineffective assistance of counsel. Why are these issues not being brought in at trial? Because there are significant issues – from what I’ve heard – about what happened during the interrogations. These include a lack of mirandizing documentation and a lack of interview recordings, which is incredibly dumbfounding to me. It’s no fault of the DA’s office, but it begs the question: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THE PSP? Are they enjoying themselves? I hope so, because this process will likely be repeated due to their conduct and lack of following rules of proceedings and recording “confessions”? Smells pretty fishy. Stay tuned. Waiting on some documentation substantiating this clusterfuck.
A SECOND REITERATION OF MY PROMISES TO THE AQUAINTANCES OF THE VICTIM AND ACCUSED DEFENDANTS IN THE RON BETTIG MURDER TRIAL
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 my sources, you are free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 nor expect any response if I were to discuss any pending cases.