A North Philadelphia handyman was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole Friday in the grisly 2015 slaying of an East Mount Airy grandmother.
After three days of testimony, a Common Pleas Court jury of six women and six men took a little more than an hour to find Leroy Wilson guilty in the June 27, 2015, murder of Regina Brunner-Holmes, 85.
Because first-degree murder in Pennsylvania carries a mandatory life prison term without possibility of parole, Judge Glenn B. Bronson immediately sentenced Wilson, 39.
Bronson added a consecutive 22½ to 45 years in prison for the guilty verdicts on robbery, burglary, and a weapons count.
The verdict triggered an outpouring of emotion. Relatives of the victim came forward and hugged Assistant District Attorney Alisa Shver, who began weeping.
"I'm so sorry," Shver told them.
"I want to say to the family that I'm sorry for their loss and my prayers go out to them," Wilson said before sentencing.
Wilson insisted he was innocent, adding: "I forgive those who have misjudged me."
Wilson told Bronson he would appeal.
Bronson told Wilson that he believed the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming and decried what he called "the level of brutality and lack of basic human decency" in the attack on Brunner-Holmes.
During the trial, Medical Examiner Sam Gulino said Brunner-Holmes' injuries were so extensive that he could only say she died from a "combination of multiple stab wounds, strangulation, and blunt trauma to her head."
The attack left Brunner-Holmes unrecognizable.
"You killed her in the most awful way anyone could imagine," Bronson said.
Brunner-Holmes' adult sons gave victim-impact statements before Wilson was sentenced.
Adam Brunner, the oldest, told Bronson that "I came to this trial very angry because I believed in my heart that this defendant killed my mother."
Now, he said, he hoped Wilson would find a way to "do some good" in prison.
"I know this will take years for my family to recover from," Brunner said. "Mostly, I'm very sad that I live in a world where someone can be damaged to such a degree that their heart is so cold they can treat another person with such animosity."
Eric Brunner thanked the "thousands of people that loved my mother."
Brunner-Holmes' body was found June 29, 2015, after an editor at the Chestnut Hill Local called Adam Brunner to say that the obsessively punctual woman had failed to report for work as an editorial assistant.
Brunner testified that he and his wife went to his mother's home in the 300 block of East Roumfort Road and met a police officer, who entered the rancher. Brunner-Holmes was lying face up on the floor of her blood-spattered bedroom. A bloodied, broken rolling pin was nearby.
Wilson came under suspicion almost immediately because he had worked for Brunner-Holmes and for several other residents on the cul-de-sac. He was working in the neighborhood on the day she was killed.
Within days, police arrived at a house in the 3100 block of North Stillman Street in North Philadelphia, where Wilson was living with a former girlfriend, Micshell Hoskins.
They found Brunner-Holmes' silver 2007 Toyota Corolla parked around the corner.
Hoskins, 41, testified that at 3 a.m. June 28, 2015, she was awake feeding her month-old daughter by Wilson when she heard a knock at the front door and figured it was Wilson asking to be let in.
When she opened the door, Hoskins said, Wilson's first words were, "I caught a body," which she said she understood to mean he had killed someone.
Hoskins said Wilson later gave her a laptop computer and a gift card, opened the laptop, called up the website of a Babies R Us store, and told her, "Get what you want."
"I knew they were stolen," Hoskins said, adding that she saw the name "Regina" written on the bottom of the computer.
Wilson was arrested July 4, 2015, at the Norristown home of his new girlfriend, Jessica Gaymon. She later told police that Wilson told her he had killed someone.
Defense attorney Earl G. Kauffman had argued that Wilson got Brunner-Holmes' stolen property but did not kill her. He reminded the jury that Wilson's DNA and fingerprints were nowhere in the Roumfort Road house or Brunner-Holmes' stolen car.
Kauffman said Hoskins and Gaymon were not credible because both were angry that Wilson was carrying on a relationship with two women. Hoskins, he added, also was charged with receiving stolen property involving her use of the stolen laptop and was "trying to curry favor with the prosecution."
Kauffman called Wilson "an innocent dupe" of the two women. Kauffman said Wilson has an IQ of 64 and has received Social Security disability benefits since he was 15 because "he is mentally retarded."
Shver, however, argued that the chain of circumstantial evidence linked Wilson to the crime. Cellphone records showed that Wilson's phone was near Brunner-Holmes' house early on June 28, 2015.
Then, at 3:30 a.m., Shver continued, a surveillance video camera at a bank ATM in North Philadelphia caught the silver Toyota parking and a man, his face disguised, walking up and trying to use Brunner-Holmes' stolen debit card.