By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Two Pennsylvania men received life prison sentences on Monday after pleading guilty to charges they beat, stabbed and burned to death a mentally disabled woman one of them had befriended.
Ryan Matthew Schannauer, 20, of Sinking Spring, and Adam Morning Star Lynch, 21, of Reading, each avoided a possible death sentence by agreeing to the plea in the Dec. 30, 2013, murder of Ashley Kline, 23, of Robesonia, Pennsylvania.
Judge David Ashworth of Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas sentenced each man to life plus up to 40 years in prison.
Lynch previously served time in prison for theft and robbery in Berks and Lancaster counties, state judicial records showed. Schannauer's record includes a minor drug arrest and a charge of receiving stolen property.
“I’m as satisfied as you can be,” Peggy Monteleone, Kline’s aunt, said of the sentences in an interview.
Monteleone said her niece was damaged by lead poisoning as a child and had a mental age of about 15. She and Schannauer knew each other well, and their mothers had once been best friends.
“She was very naive and trusting,” Monteleone said of her niece. “Overly trusting.”
State police said Schannauer and Lynch arrived at Kline's house on Dec. 30 and she willingly left with them. They drove her around for a time, but then took her to the Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Clay Township, Lancaster County.
There they dragged her from the car as she fought them, stabbed her repeatedly in the back, and then set her on fire with gasoline while she was still alive, police said.
Both men said in court they did not know why they killed her, and blamed the other for the stabbing.
They returned to the wildlife area on Jan. 8 and burned the body further, police said. Police had been searching for her after the woman’s father reported her missing.
Hikers found the body on Jan. 12, and Schannauer and Lynch were arrested three days later.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney)