By Rich Cholodofsky
A Monessen man convicted of the robbery and assault of a 91-year-old Rostraver woman was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 40 years in prison. About an hour later, Greg Howard appeared in another Westmoreland County courtroom to marry his girlfriend.
Howard, 47, had nothing to say standing before Judge Rita Hathaway as she ordered that he spend at least 20 years behind bars for the October 2014 home invasion that left Frances Tekavec severely injured and her savings stolen. He was given credit for the time he has served in jail since early November.
“Thank God she is here today and didn’t die in the incident,” Hathaway said.
Howard’s silence was in sharp contrast to his demeanor during the three-day trial in July in which he served as his own lawyer. Howard gave a rambling closing argument during the trial, referencing Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and other cultural icons. It took jurors 43 minutes to convict Howard of robbery, aggravated assault and conspiracy.
During the trial, prosecutors said Howard and two other men broke into Tekavec’s home. The men used a Levin’s furniture truck as a ruse to get into the home by asking her to sign a fake delivery receipt, according to trial testimony. Witnesses said they took $13,000 and jewelry and left Tekavec lying on her bed with her ankles and wrists bound.
Tekavec identified Howard as one of her attackers. She made no comment in court on Thursday, but Hathaway read a letter she wrote about the impact of the crime.
In the letter, Tekavec said she is now confined to a wheelchair, and because of the injuries she suffered in the attack, she is in constant pain and is restricted from performing basic personal chores, such as brushing her hair.
“Certainly there are very serious effects she has suffered because of the crime committed against her,” Hathaway said.
Defense attorney Tim Dawson asked that Howard receive concurrent sentences because two other men were more responsible for the violence.
Charges are pending against co-defendants Lamont Dixon, 35, and Branddon Danilchak, 28.
Howard was allowed to wear civilian clothing in court instead of a prison jumpsuit. Deputies said Howard remained shackled during a brief wedding ceremony later in the afternoon presided over by Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.
The ceremony was attended by five deputies and the bride’s baby, who was born last month.