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Man found guilty of killing his wife, sentenced to life in prison without parole

Friday, September 20, 2002

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- In late December 1998, nine days after telling police Vincent McGee broke down a door and threatened to kill her, McGee's wife decided to let her protection-from-abuse order against him die quietly.

So he wrote to Centre County Judge David Grine, asking for the return of a stash of weapons -- from handguns to ammunition to a large knife -- that police had confiscated from him.

"I have been given the opportunity to make peace with myself and my wife ... and I have every intention of doing so," he wrote. "I do not plan to ever be in this position again."

McGee didn't deliver.

Yesterday, after 3 1/2 hours of deliberation, a Centre County jury found McGee, 38, guilty of first-degree murder for shooting his wife, the mother of their two young sons, in their State College home.

Grine, the trial judge, followed by sentencing McGee to life in prison without parole.

"He always carried a gun, and he was almost always drunk," District Attorney Ray Gricar said later of McGee. "He was like a bomb rolling around."

Public defender Deborah Lux said she expects to appeal.

In November, back in State College after 2 1/2 years living in McGee's native Uniontown and in a marriage that was unraveling, the couple clashed over McGee's relentless drinking. By Nov. 8, McGee's wife had had enough; she ordered him out and packed up herself, intending to stay at her parents' State College home until he left.

But that night in their living room, McGee, using one of the weapons returned to him after his wife's 1998 protection order expired, killed Amy McGee, 33, with a single .40-caliber bullet through her head, police say.

He first told investigators that he was innocent, that the gun fired as he sat in a living room chair, shifting the weapon inside the waistband of his sweat pants -- a repeat of the story he gave police in 1999 after he shot out a window of the family vehicle as he and his wife drove through Bedford County.

Lux, though, told jurors in closing arguments yesterday that McGee likely was suffering from an alcoholic blackout and didn't know what he did. At most, she said, McGee deserved a conviction for involuntary manslaughter -- a count for which he might serve no jail time.

"It was Vincent's intent that day to drink, not to kill," she said.

McGee, indeed, was drunk. More than two hours after the shooting, his blood alcohol level was 0.17. The state considers a driver registering 0.10 legally intoxicated, and Lux suggested that at the time of the shooting, McGee's level was as high as 0.23.

Gricar, though, told jurors yesterday that McGee recalled other details from the half-day period when he supposedly was going through his blackout.

And the district attorney reminded jurors that a firearms expert said the handgun misfired once before the fatal shot.

"He was not in a blackout," Gricar told jurors. "He's a very determined liar."

Tom Gibb can be reached at tgibb@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.

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