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Warner Batty re-sentenced to 50 years to life for 1975 murder

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YORK — A York man will serve a prison term of 50 years to life after being re-sentenced by a York County Common Pleas judge for his role in a murder that occurred in 1975.

Warner Batty Jr., 57, had been serving a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for participating in the sexual assault and murder of Betty Marie Ilgenfritz Bradford.

But because of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 2016 that people who are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed before the age of 18 can challenge their punishment, he had a hearing before Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness on Tuesday.

Before issuing a new sentence for Batty, Ness went through the factors he is required to consider under the law: Age at the time of offense, rehabilitative needs of the defendant, and the defendant’s mental health history.

On Feb. 1, 1975, Batty and another man, Donald Riviera, forced Bradford into a vacant home on Locust Street and gang-raped her. Bradford was on her way to the grocery store to buy milk for her 2-year-old daughter at the time. Batty, who was 15 at the time, and Riviera, who was 18, assaulted and suffocated Bradford. They then placed a mattress over her body and set it on fire.

She was 26.

Ness described the murder as “heinous” and “malicious” before issuing the new sentence. At the same time, Ness said, experts no longer believed Batty was a danger to the community.

Under the 2016 Supreme Court ruling, life sentences are not banned. Instead, the Court said in its ruling, they should be reserved for those whose crimes show “irreparable corruption.”

Prosecutors at Barry’s hearing argued for another life sentence. Barry’s defense attorney argued that he should be sentenced to either 10 to 20 years for third-degree murder, or that the judge should order his release.

Lord said after the hearing that he planned to appeal the decision, contending that the court lacks the authority to hand down a sentence for first-degree murder in cases like these, because the only penalty on the books is a mandatory life term. The state legislature hasn’t acted on the Supreme Court ruling yet.

SOURCE: Hanover Evening Sun