WELLSBORO - Matthew D. Priset, 28, was found guilty of first degree murder, though mentally ill, by Tioga County Court President Judge Robert E. Dalton Jr. in a brief end to a "difficult" case Friday.
Defense attorneys William Hebe and Mary Morris had mounted an insanity defense claiming Priset was not responsible for his actions when he stabbed Clinton Perry, 28, to death in Perry's Delmar Township home Jan. 25, 2011, but Dalton denied that defense.
"Mr. Priset is not legally insane, he was mentally ill at the time of the commission of the crimes, but that is not a defense," Dalton said. "Rather it is implicated when an insanity defense fails," he added.
In a matter of moments what has been a week long heart wrenching proceedings for all involved - both the victim Clinton Perry's family and Priset's family - it was over. Perry's family fell into tears, hugging and crying after the judge left the courtroom while Priset's family and friends sat looking stunned on the other side of the courtroom.
Priset showed no emotion as he was led from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies to be transported back to the county prison to await sentencing.
He will be evaluated by a psychiatrist who will determine his competency to participate in the sentencing process, Dalton said.
If he is found competent, following a pre-sentence investigation, a sentencing date will be set. Typically sentencing is done within 6 weeks, said District Attorney George Wheeler.
If he is not found competent, he will be treated at an appropriate mental health facility until he is competent, he said.
Wheeler said he "conceded that mental illness played a role" in the commission of the crimes but "our investigation conducted thoroughly and professionally by state police led us to believe it was a first-degree murder case and we presented it as such."
"We are grateful for the verdict," he added.
Wheeler said Priset would likely get life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"A mentally ill person may not be able to be in a general population prison, because it may not be safe for him or others," Wheeler said.
Priset also was found guilty but mentally ill of burglary, aggravated assault, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.
The Perry and Priset families and friends declined to speak to the press following the reading of the verdict.