Gregory R. Graf, a Pennsylvania man who murdered his stepdaughter and had sex with her corpse, will not face the death penalty. According to Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli, because Graf fornicated with the lifeless body of Jessica Padgett rather than raped her when she was alive, he will not be seeking the death penalty.
“It is not a capital case. We’ve reviewed the aggravating factors,” Morganelli told President Judge Stephen Baratta during a Friday court hearing.
Instead of adding a rape charge, the prosecutor filed an abuse of corpse charge against the 53-year-old Allen Township man in light of the fact that, while Graf killed his stepdaughter so he could have sex with her body, the sexual abuse occurred post-mortem.
Had Graf raped Padgett before he ended the 33-year-old woman’s life, it would be a different story. The Morning Call explains:
Under Pennsylvania law, a murder in perpetration of a felony is an aggravating factor that allows prosecutors to pursue capital charges. Rape rises to that level, but the sexual desecration of a corpse does not, as case law has established, Morganelli said.
“He videotaped it,” Morganelli said, “so there’s a videotape of him abusing the corpse sexually.” The prosecutor added that he believes Graf’s desire to have sex with his stepdaughter was “a direct motive.”
The video, which is in police possession, makes “absolutely clear” that Padgett was dead at the time, and that the tape showed Graf committing “a variety of sexual acts against Padgett, a 33-year-old Whitehall Township woman who had once described him on social media as like a second father,” according to the Morning Call.
Graf is accused of shooting Padgett in the back of her head, then hiding her body on his property as her family searched for her. She had gone missing after leaving her place of employment, Duck Duck Goose Child Care in Northampton.
Graf, the owner of a fencing company, asked for a court-appointed attorney because he did not wish to waste the family’s money on his defense. “Like I said, I just don’t want to take away the funds from the family.”
Morganelli argued to Judge Baratta that Graf should have to pay for his attorney because financial disclosures revealed that he could afford an attorney. “Mr. Graf has just basically told you that he’d rather waste the taxpayer money on his defense than his own [money],” Morganelli said.
The judge agreed that Graf could not weasel out of paying for his defense. “You’re not going to be able to escape paying for the resources of an attorney,” Baratta told the businessman. “I just can’t allow that.”
“It doesn’t sound like you’re giving me a lot of choices,” Graf complained. He says that he will now seek out an attorney.
While this man will likely spend his life in prison, it’s not exactly comforting that he managed to avoid the death penalty because he had sex with a corpse.