The monster: Graf in mugshot.
Of course, Gregory Graf, 54, didn’t see himself as a monster. They never do. “I’m not a bad guy,” he insisted to police — while confessing to a murder that left even the most cynical cop speechless with shock. At his trial — even after confessing, he insisted on a trial because, he told his lawyer, it was “an aberration” that was “not premeditated” — he put the jurors through an experience that left them as shaken as the cops, maybe more, considering that the jurors were strangers to the irrational and horrific world of homicide.
The last piece of evidence prosecutors presented was the disturbing video that Graf produced after he killed Padgett last November.
via Gregory Graf guilty of first-degree murder, jury takes just minutes to convict – The Morning Call.
We’ll get to the disturbing video in a moment, but Jessica “Jes” Padgett, the victim, was Graf’s stepdaughter, a mother of three. He shot her in the back of the head without warning and, as nearly as anyone can figure out, without motive, except just to kill her so he could… well, you’ll see. Then he made the video that sealed his fate. As he said during his confession — which came after days of stout denials:
In a 36-minute audio recording at a state police barracks, the Allen Township man admitted he shot 33-year-old Jessica Padgett in the back of the head as she sat by a fax machine at his house, saying he neither spoke nor gave warning before taking her life.
“I’m not really a bad guy and I just lost my mind temporarily. I don’t want to hurt anybody,” Graf told investigators Nov. 26, five days after Padgett’s disappearance sparked frantic search efforts.
On the recording, Graf says he knew “that I did wrong” but still tried to cover it up. He calls what happened “hell” and a “nightmare.”
“I wasn’t thinking,” he says. “I thought I could get away with something.”
The victim: Jessica “Jes” Padgett, 33, mother of 3, and Graf’s stepdaughter.
The recording was played Thursday during emotional testimony in the Northampton County trial of Graf, who acknowledges killing Padgett, a Whitehall Township mother of three, and later taping himself performing sex acts on her body.
“At that point, my mind was still spinning, basically thinking of sex for whatever reason,” Graf related to investigators, later adding: “During that time, I tried to video. I don’t even know why.”
The monstrous nature of the crime…. it reminds one of tales of demonic possession, except that Graf doesn’t even have that defense — he kept trying to get away with it.
On the recording, Graf says he couldn’t fathom his actions. He says he remembered a Peeping Tom incident when he was a boy in Bucks County, but denies ever fantasizing about violence. He watches “a lot of porn,” he told the investigators, and had been viewing some before Padgett arrived.
In explaining why he took a .22-caliber handgun from a closet, walked up to Padgett and executed her at point-blank range, Graf says only that a “crazy thought” had come into his head.
“Did you say anything to her when you shot her?” Szczecina asks on the recording.
“No, I did not,” Graf says.
“Did she know you were going to shoot her?” the corporal adds.
“No, absolutely not,” Graf says, his voice catching.
And the toughest moment is yet to come. On Friday, District Attorney John Morganelli will wrap up his case, and plans to present the six- to seven-minute video that Graf recorded of himself abusing the dead Padgett, whose head he had covered in a plastic bag.
“He didn’t want to look at her, and the blood was freaking him out,” Trooper Barton Josefowicz III said Graf later told him.
Proof, if more proof is needed, of Graf’s monstrosity:
Josefowicz said Graf admitted he killed Padgett “to have sex with her body,” and lamented that he hadn’t chosen his neighbor, 46-year-old Karen Gundrum, as his victim instead.
Graf, as he saw himself: Facebook selfie.
That can’t have been welcome news for Ms Gundrum.
“I would have gotten away with it,” Graf said, according to Josefowicz. “No one would have known.”
This is not someone who is right in the head, but it is also someone who is a personification of evil. He planned the crime in detail, choosing a day when his wife — Jessica’s mother — was out of state, buying sex toys the day prior, prepositioning a truck at the remote site where he planned to ditch Padgett’s car, and pestering her at work to come to his home to help with a computer problem. (Those strange, persistent calls, remembered by her co-workers, led police to Graf while Padgett was missing).
After he raped her dead body — filming the misconduct — he buried her in leaves on his rural property. After his confession, he drew a diagram of her location for the police, and they were able to recover the body. He also told them where to find the video.
About that video:
it is one thing to describe the recordings, which show Graf performing sex acts on Padgett’s corpse several hours after he killed her. It is another thing to actually view them, as the nine men and three women who decided Graf’s fate now know.
He had covered her head with a plastic bag, because the blood was freaking him out. Killing her didn’t freak him out. Raping her dead body didn’t freak him out. Later, lying the whole five days she was missing wouldn’t freak him out. No, the blood freaked him out.
One juror’s eyes filled with tears while the video played. Another’s face twisted into a look of profound distaste. Another sat motionless with his hand over his mouth, his fingers pinching his eyes. The courtroom was silent.
The video was made up of eight recordings that were shot by Graf over a span of two hours using two cameras. It was presented on a screen that was purposefully placed away from the view of the audience, where many members of Padgett’s family sat. Others chose to stay away — including Bittner and Padgett’s father, Thomas Kaczmar, who took their seats only after it was over.
Even the sounds from the recordings were taxing to hear, with Graf at one point speaking profanely to Padgett’s lifeless body, whose head he had covered in a plastic bag. The actual images were even worse.
McMahon, the defense attorney, didn’t look at the display as the video played, keeping his eyes averted and swiveling his chair away. His client also did not look, busying himself reading court papers in front of him.
The only noise beyond the recordings was the occasional voice of Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mulqueen as each snippet ended.
“OK, the next video please,” she would say, breaking the silence.
She’s a hard woman. If she wasn’t before this case, she is now.
Beforehand, [Judge] Baratta had warned jurors that they should not allow the video to unduly sway their emotions, a cautionary instruction typical when potentially inflammatory evidence is presented.
“From what I understand this is not a pleasant video. It is maybe quite upsetting,” Baratta said.
“Please know,” he told the panel, “if you don’t feel comfortable watching the entire video, you don’t have to watch the entire video.”
The jurors all made it through, though when it was over, they sat silently with vacant expressions even several minutes later.
After that, the defense attorney, who never disputed that Graf committed the murder, who agreed publicly that it was “an evil act,” and who argued only for a second-degree verdict on grounds that the killing was an act of impulse, not a premeditated first-degree killing, chose not to put on Graf, or any defense witnesses or evidence at all. The case went to the jury, then, right after these videos.
The jury returned with the verdict: guilty, murder-one — in six minutes.
About the same elapsed time as the total of Graf’s unspeakable necrophilia videos.
Pennsylvania being a postcivilizational state, has a death penalty on the books, but Governor Tom Wolf is more opposed to the death of Gregory Graf than any number of Jessica Padgetts, so he has unilaterally suspended it, reprieving 186 bestial murderers, as well as taking the penalty off of Graf, whose case was pending when Wolf stepped in to save his life. (Hey, it’s a swing state: Wolf needs every vote, and it’s not like the victims were doing him any good. Right now, they can’t vote while they’re locked up, unlike other criminal-coddling jurisdictions, but Wolf is working on that. The State Supreme Court overturned prohibitions on parolees and probationers in 2000). The Pennsylvania DAs had a response to that:
A moratorium is just a ploy. Make no mistake, this action is not about waiting for a study– it’s about the governor ignoring duly enacted law and imposing his personal views against the death penalty.
Accordingly, Graf will be sentenced to life in prison. In Pennsylvania, apparently, Con Lives Matter.