Pa. man charged with killing wife, young daughters

June 4, 2012 - 3:45 PM

INDIANA, Pa. (AP) — A prosecutor said he may pursue the death penalty against a western Pennsylvania man jailed on charges he killed his two young daughters and his estranged wife at separate residences which were also set on fire.

Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty announced his intentions at a Monday news conference that detailed the killings Friday about 45 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Lewis Beatty, 40, of Home, who was charged with three counts of criminal homicide in the deaths of his daughters, Sara, 6, and Amanda, 11, and his wife, Christine, 33, at two separate residences.

State police Trooper John Matchik said investigators believe Beatty killed his daughter, Sara, first by slitting her throat sometime Friday in her bottom bunk bed of the home they shared. Beatty then went outside and shot the family's pet pony, goat and dog before waiting for his 11-year-old daughter to return from school, at which point he slit her throat, Matchik said.

Police believe Beatty then stopped at a convenience store for a drink, went to a bank to try to add his mother's name to an account, and then followed his estranged wife home from her job as a bank teller in Marion Center.

Beatty choked the woman after she tried to leave, then slit her throat after she fell unconscious, killing her, before setting fire to the mobile home she had been renting in East Mahoning Township, Matchik said. Beatty then returned to his home in South Mahoning Township — where his daughters still lay dead — and set it on fire.

A neighbor rescued Beatty from the flames, and he was arrested after being treated at Indiana Regional Medical Center. The fires were reported between 7 and 8 p.m. Friday, though it took investigators until early Saturday to sort out the carnage and charge Beatty.

Ron Smail, who identified himself as the father and grandfather of the victims, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his daughter and Beatty had separated and shared custody of their daughters. He said Lewis Beatty was attempting to reconcile with Christine, who had turned down his invitation for a dinner date on Friday, though he wasn't sure if that led to the killings.

The Presbyterian Church of Plumville, where the family attended church, posted the message "We love you Chris Amanda and Sara" on a sign in front of the sanctuary.

Beatty was jailed without bond following his arrest and preliminary arraignment Saturday. He faces a preliminary hearing Thursday, though that's expected to be continued once an attorney is found to represent him.