Jurors found in March that Billy Ray Gordon stabbed his wife 20 times before dumping her body along East 19th Street in July.
By Madeleine O’Neill
An Erie man who tried to explain away his dead wife’s blood with a sneeze defense at his homicide trial received life in prison at his sentencing Thursday.
Billy Ray Gordon, 58, angrily defended his innocence at the hearing, claiming the police officers who investigated his wife’s death were “racist liars” who tricked him.
“I will fight this case until I prove my innocence,” he said in court, to disgusted sounds from the victim’s family.
Gordon was certain to spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury in March convicted him of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole, as well as counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, possession of the instrument of a crime, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
Erie County Judge Stephanie Domitrovich added 2½ to 8 years to the mandatory life sentence for the other charges, several of which merged for sentencing purposes. The sentences were all in the standard range of state guidelines.
The jury found Gordon stabbed his wife, 51-year-old Linda Gordon, 20 times before leaving her body along a stretch of East 19th Street in July.
During the sentencing, Gordon addressed his wife’s family and claimed he and Linda Gordon had been “in a good place” in their marriage.
“I can understand the feelings you all have toward me, but I’m going to tell you for the first time I didn’t kill Linda,” he told the family. He said additional evidence should have come out at his trial and asked about how to appeal.
Jurors did not accept Gordon’s unusual explanation for why DNA evidence showed his wife’s blood was inside his pinkie ring and his car: that he and his wife often sneezed blood from snorting heroin.
Linda Gordon, who had been married for nine years, had heroin and cocaine in her system when she died, and the prosecution said she was stabbed with a hunting knife with some of the wounds as many as 4½ inches deep.
Prosecution witnesses also testified that DNA evidence showed Linda Gordon’s blood was found on a knife discovered across the street from where her body was dumped and spotted by a passing motorist at 8:30 a.m. on July 22.
Two prosecution witnesses testified at his trial that Billy Ray Gordon told them he killed his wife because he believed she was cheating on him and because he feared she would turn him in for robbing a credit union and attempting to rob a bank eight days before her death. Gordon is awaiting prosecution in those cases.
One of those witnesses testified that he burned Billy Ray Gordon’s bloodstained clothes after the killing at Gordon’s request.
Assistant District Attorney Erin Connelly, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney D. Robert Marion, pointed out the brutality of the crime during the sentencing.
“You have before you a man who killed the one person that he was supposed to love,” Connelly told Domitrovich.
After the hearing, Gordon’s court-appointed lawyer, Mark Del Duca, of Pittsburgh, said he would not be responsible for handling any appeals filed by Gordon.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and certainly he can express frustration with the trial,” Del Duca said.
Linda Gordon’s sister, Nancy Sigmund, said after the sentencing that the relationship between Linda and Billy Ray Gordon had not been loving and caring, as he’d claimed in court.
“We were sick to our stomachs even hearing him speak,” she said.