Penn State Professor Pushed off Cliff May Have Been Alive for Days, Police Say

What to Know

  • Ronald Bettig was lured to a quarry Aug. 12, where he was allegedly pushed to his death
  • The professor's body was found five days later after buzzards were seen hovering over it
  • A pathologist says Bettig probably stayed alive for up to two days, immobile and maybe unconscious

A Penn State professor who police say was pushed off an 80-foot rock quarry ledge died slowly and possibly was alive and immobile for up to two days, an investigator testified Wednesday. 

State Trooper Brian Wakefield revealed new details in the case during a preliminary hearing for 39-year-old George Ishler Jr., one of the two people charged with Ronald Bettig's murder. Danelle Geier, 32, waived her hearing, reported. 

The two lured Bettig to Blackhawk Quarry on Aug. 12, police say, telling him they could harvest marijuana there. Police believe Ishler pushed him while Geier waited in the car with her toddler son. Ishler is Geier's uncle, according to police. 

Wakefield said Bettig likely was still alive then when Geier and Ishler returned to the scene eight hours after the push to plant Bettig's belongings and vehicle there. They hoped to make it look like Bettig had been there on his own and accidentally fell, Wakefield said. 

Police found Bettig's body Aug. 17, buzzards hovering above it. Wakefield said a pathologist believes the professor may have remained alive for up to two days at the bottom of the ravine, immobile and possibly unconscious. The cause of death has been ruled "blunt force trauma due to a fall." 

Both Ishler and Geier were ordered to stand trial on murder and related charges after the hearing. 

Ishler told police Bettig had recently updated his will to include them and police said he thought he and Geier stood to inherit money upon the professor's death, reported 

Bettig had befriended the two months before he died, and Geier had moved into his home in Lemont with her son earlier this year. 

Wakefield said Geier told him that she and Ishler were tired of the professor's sharp tongue and criticisms of them and Geier's child-rearing habits. 

They had first tried and failed to drown Bettig on a trip they took to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware on Aug. 10, police said. 

"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," Wakefield said. 

Wakefield added Ishler told him "he was to dunk Bettig and Danelle was to wrap her legs around him to hold Bettig down under water." 

Ishler's defense lawyers questioned the proof behind such claims, saying the investigation of this case is far from finished. 

They also argued that some law enforcement claims against their client lack documentation. 

Bettig joined the College of Communications in 1988 and was an associate professor of media studies. 

He was on leave and not scheduled to teach during the fall 2016 semester.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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