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A Uniontown man was sentenced to 29 1/2 to 67 years in prison Tuesday for his role in the 2013 murder of a 52-year-old woman in Connellsville whose body was dumped in the Youghiogheny River.
Paul Jerome Bannasch pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, unlawful restraint, abuse of a corpse, conspiracy and kidnapping before Fayette County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Wagner, in exchange for sex charges against him being dropped and a death-penalty-eligible homicide trial being averted.
Police said that Bannasch, 28, of Uniontown, and codefendant Craig Allen Rugg, 29, of Connellsville, beat, sexually assaulted and strangled Margaret “Peggy Sue” Kriek in June of 2013.
According to the criminal complaint against them, the two men had been drinking that night at Sidewinders bar in the city, and witnesses saw them near the Amtrak train platform with Kriek.
Police found some of her clothes there, along with blood and drag marks leading toward the Yough.
A group of Boy Bcouts discovered Kriek's nude body floating in the river the next morning in Dunbar Township. State police charged Rugg and Bannasch with homicide the day after that.
Rugg told police in an interview that he, Bannasch and Kriek had talked about sex at the bar, but he became upset when they left the bar and Kriek was no longer interested. Rugg said he knocked her out with a blow to the face, and the two men dragged her across the railroad tracks and kicked her down the hill toward the river, fleeing when they noticed she was no longer breathing.
Rugg pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in September, 2015.
Kriek was the mother of two children and had five grandchildren.
Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, [email protected] or on Twitter @msantoni.