TOWANDA — A Bradford County man is going to jail for the rest of his life for killing his girlfriend and disposing of her body in a creek.
Michael Jason Houseweart, 28, of Canton, Monday pleaded guilty in Bradford County court to first-degree murder in connection with the death of Michelle Inch, 32, of the Montoursville area.
He was immediately sentenced by Judge Maureen Beirne to life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole.
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If convicted by a jury at trial, Houseweart could have received the death penalty. The plea eliminates that possibility.
Houseweart admitted he shot, stabbed and bludgeoned Inch in late January and then dumped her body in Schrader Creek. He claimed it was not a pre-planned killing.
Inch, who disappeared Jan. 26, was the subject of an extensive search until a passerby discovered her partially decomposed body March 18 along the creek near Monroeton.
An autopsy determined Inch was shot in the right arm and bled to death. She also suffered stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the torso.
The motive for the slaying remains unknown, District Attorney Daniel Barrett said. It appears Houseweart, who claimed drugs had ruined his life, made decisions as he went, he said.
Investigators allege after Houseweart killed Inch, he and Brian Matthew Vroman, 28, also of Canton, broke into home of her parents, Gary and Linda Inch, northeast of Montoursville early on Jan. 27.
The morning before the home invasion, Houseweart had accompanied Gary Inch and his daughter to the state police barracks in Montoursville to report stolen checks and irregularities in a bank account.
Houseweart, who lived with the Inchs for a period after Christmas, later was charged in Lycoming County with stealing and forging two checks. He is awaiting trial in that case.
Inch and Houseweart had been a couple for about two years, and had talked about moving in together, said her father, Gary Inch, during a July interview with PennLive. Gary Inch said he thought they generally got along well.
“I would have never, ever suspected he was capable of something like this,” Gary Inch said at the time.
Houseweart expressed remorse to Inch’s family members and friends in the courtroom.
State police have said they believed the motive for the home invasion was robbery. Affidavits reveal Gary and Linda Inch had received an inheritance in excess of $35,000.
Charges in Lycoming County against Houseweart and Vroman from the home invasion include attempted homicide, robbery and arson.
Vroman, who is being held without bail, had been scheduled for a guilty plea twice but the proceedings were continued each time.
There is no evidence he was involved in Inch’s death, police have said.
A state police affidavit states Houseweart also has confessed to the home invasion in which Gary Inch was injured.