A Penn State University (PSU) associate professor who was pushed to his death off of the Blackhawk Quarry in Potter Township, on August 12, was likely alive for at least two days while he slowly died, police confirmed in a court hearing on Wednesday.
Penn Live reports that Pennsylvania State Trooper Brian Wakefield revealed disturbing details about the incident during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing for one of the people accused of pushing Ronald Bettig, 56, to his death in an attempt to gain money from his will.
The trooper’s testimony at the Centre County Court indicated that two suspects, Danelle Geier, 32, of Lemont, and George Ishler Jr., 39, of Pennsylvania Furnace, allegedly pushed Bettig off of a cliff after the assistant professor placed them in his will. The hearing was for Ishler, who’s charges were bound over for trial, while Geier waived her preliminary hearing.
Bettig, a media studies professor, fell 80 feet from the cliff. He was discovered five days later, with buzzards hovering around his remains. Geier allegedly waited in her car with her baby, while Ishler Jr. lured Bettig close to the cliff. Once the professor neared the edge, Ishler Jr. allegedly shoved him so hard that Betting plunged forward into the quarry.
On August 10, the couple allegedly tried to kill Bettig on a trip all three took to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where they attempted but failed to drown him. Ishler admitted to police that his intention was to drown Bettig “for financial gain.” According to Wakefield:
“When they were in Delaware, [Ishler] stated that he did dunk Bettig while in the ocean, but that he felt he couldn’t do it [hold him under] and didn’t continue. [Ishler] stated he was to dunk Bettig and Danelle was to wrap her legs around him to hold Bettig down under water.”
The trooper indicated that the trio went directly to Blackhawk Quarry upon returning from the Delaware trip on August 12. The couple reportedly promised to show Betting a marijuana harvest in the area, which helped lure him to the cliff. A pathologist said that it’s likely Betting stayed alive a few days and unable to move. He may have been unconscious. His official cause of death was listed as “blunt force trauma due to fall.”
Both Geier and Ishler confessed to planning the murder and carrying it out. Wakefield said that Betting was romantically involved with Geier. The pair had been living together, along with Geier’s baby son, in Bettig’s Lemont home. Although Ishler is Geier’s uncle, there were reports of “admission of sexual involvement” between the two.
Bettig started working at PSU in 1988, as an instructor, several years before the school was established. In 1990, he accepted a position as an assistant professor and by 1997, his work was so exceptional that he was promoted to associate professor. The Daily Collegian reports that Bettig’s academic focus was on the “political economy of communication.” He was an author of two books: Copyrighting Culture: The Political Economy of Intellectual Property, and Big Media, Big Money: Cultural Texts and Political Economics.
According to PSU’s College of Communications Dean, Marie Hardin, Bettig was not only a successful author, but a trusted teacher who was adored by his student. He was also respected by the school’s faculty and loved being a part of the team. In an email addressed to the PSU faculty, Hardin wrote:
“His home among all of you, here in the College, meant a great deal to him.”
Former student Moira Smith, who majored in Film and English, remembered Bettig as encouraging and helpful.
“He was really helpful and encouraged [his students] to come find him to get help on the readings.”
Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Thomas Stock, who helped lead the murder investigation, stated that Geier and Ishler showed no remorse at all after pushing the professor off the cliff. They’re both charged with first- and third-degree murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit murder, and evidence tampering.
[Photo by AP/Handout]