Erie man sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison for 2021 Conneaut Lake-area murder

Erie man sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison for 2021 Conneaut Lake-area murder

March 8—An Erie man was sentenced in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to a total of 25 to 50 years in prison for killing his estranged wife in their Sadsbury Township home in 2021.

Darryl S. Gillespie, 29, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Tuesday by Judge Mark Stevens for shooting and killing Christina Ruhl-Farnsworth, 23, as she slept at a home along Route 618 on the west side of Conneaut Lake. The Meadville Tribune was the only media to attend the plea and sentencing.

Gillespie’s trial was scheduled to begin next week where he faces general charges of murder and burglary filed by the Pennsylvania State Police. A simple charge of manslaughter would likely include first-degree murder if convicted at trial. A conviction for first-degree murder in Pennsylvania carries a sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Gillespie pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree murder, endangering the welfare of a child and possession of criminal instruments. Stevens then sentenced Gillespie to a total of 25 to 50 years for those crimes.

The agreed-upon sentence of 25 to 50 years was part of a plea agreement between the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office and Gillespie’s defense attorney, Anthony Rodricks.

Gillespie admitted he traveled to the Conneaut Lake area from Erie County on the morning of Sept. 14, 2021, entered the home and shot Ruhl-Farnsworth twice with a .22-caliber pistol as she slept in a bedroom, and then fled the scene. . Ruhl-Farnsworth was found dead later that day in the home she shared with her young daughter, her father and her father’s male roommate.

Gillespie also admitted to Stevens that Ruhl-Farnsworth’s 3 1/2-year-old daughter was in the room during the fatal shooting.

“I saw him,” Gillespie told Stevens.

“Are you looking for him?” The judge then asked.

“Yes,” Gillespie replied.

“Did you make sure he was out of the way?” Stevens then asked.

“Yes,” Gillespie replied.

Gillespie told Stevens he suffered from mental health issues including depression, split personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In sentencing Gillespie, the judge said such problems did not excuse his actions that morning, calling the situation tragic.

Stevens said the 25- to 50-year sentence agreed upon was fair and reasonable.

“You changed the course of a lot of people’s lives that day and there’s no going back,” Stevens told Gillespie. “What you did was wrong.”

Stevens sentenced Gillespie to 20 to 40 years for third-degree murder, the maximum sentence; three and a half to seven years for third-degree felony endangering the welfare of a child; and one-and-a-half to three years, sentences to be served consecutively, for possession of instrumentalities. Stevens gave Gillespie 539 days of pre-sentence jail credit. Gillespie was also ordered to pay a $100 fine and court costs.

Andrew Natallo, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, said the sentence was a fair result based on similar cases prosecuted by the DA’s office over the years.

Natallo praised Ruhl-Farnsworth’s family members as steadfast and important in the 18 months it took to close the case.

“They’ve put up with a lot — a lot of delays, a lot of things that no one ever wants to go through or have to go through,” he said. “They were strong throughout and we appreciate their energy and commitment to this process.”

Rodriques declined comment to the Tribune.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email [email protected].

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