Penn State professor Ronald Bettig may have taken as long as two days to die after he was pushed from a ledge and fell 80 feet to the bottom of a quarry, a court heard Wednesday. The lead investigator on the case testified that a pathologist believes the 56-year-old professor died slowly and was probably immobilized by the fall, PennLive reports. State Trooper Brian Wakefield was testifying at the preliminary hearing of 39-year-old George Ishler Jr., who is accused of pushing Bettig into the quarry on Aug. 12. Wakefield said Bettig was probably still alive eight hours later, when Ishler and alleged accomplice Danelle Geier, 32, returned to plant his possessions and vehicle at the scene to make it look like an accident. His body was found Aug. 17, with buzzards circling over it.
Wakefield testified that Bettig had been romantically involved with Geier, who had moved into his home along with her infant son, reports the Centre Daily Times. But there was tension between Bettig, Geier, and Ishler, who was described as a friend of Bettig who was also romantically involved with Geier—despite being her uncle. Wakefield testified Geier told him that in the weeks leading up to the killing "she was upset because the professor criticized the way she raised her child and was belittling Ishler." He testified that Ishler told police the killing was to claim an inheritance from the professor and that on Aug. 10, they had planned to drown him during a beach visit and make it look like an accident but found that they couldn't go through with it.