BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A former Penn State football player from Maryland was convicted yesterday of murder in the stabbing death of a former roommate.
LaVon Chisley, 23, a former defensive lineman for the Nittany Lions, was found guilty of first- and third-degree murder. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, as Pennsylvania law requires for a first-degree murder conviction.
Chisley showed no emotion when the Centre County jury returned its verdict after about five hours of deliberation. When Judge Charles C. Brown Jr. asked whether he had anything to say, Chisley said, "No." He did not look back at his family, several of whom were visibly upset, when he was led out of the courtroom.
Karen Muir, Chisley's lawyer, said her client thanked her. "I'm not sure it's really registered yet," she said. "It's very shocking to have a judge look you in the eye and say you're going to spend the rest of your natural life in prison."
Muir said she will explore an appeal.
"I still maintain ... that, while I respect the jury's verdict, the evidence did not prove that my client killed Langston Carraway," Muir said.
Carraway, 26, was found in his apartment in June 2006 with 93 stab wounds, many of them to his hands and arms as he apparently sought to protect himself. It was the first homicide in 15 years in Patton Township, a hamlet next to State College and the Penn State campus, about 11 miles southwest of Bellefonte, the county seat.
A motive for the killing remains unclear, but prosecutors suggested that Chisley, about $50,000 in debt and desperate, was after the cash that Carraway -- a fellow low-level drug dealer, they said -- kept in his apartment.
As an aspiring professional football player, Chisley had a bright future. The 6-foot, 6-inch, 250-pound Chisley was a star on the team at Waldorf High School in Charles County, then took his talent and his ambition to Penn State.
But trouble followed him. In 2005, he was kicked off the team because of poor grades, crushing his dream of joining the National Football League. He got involved in drugs, police say, and became mired in debt. He was convicted of making terrorist threats against a former girlfriend.
"He thought he'd be able to get into the NFL and pay everyone off," District Attorney Michael T. Madeira said in an interview after delivering his closing argument in the weeklong trial. "But he didn't make the draft, and he didn't get picked up as a free agent. The jury heard testimony that he was forced to make money by selling marijuana."
Madeira acknowledged that there were no witnesses to the killing and that he had built a largely circumstantial case. It hinged, he said, on DNA evidence, such as a glove found near the body that had Carraway's blood as well as traces of Chisley's DNA. In addition, he said, an expert witness testified that a pattern left by a shoe on Carraway's linoleum floor matched the wear pattern on shoes owned by the defendant.
"Because there wasn't an eyewitness, you need a lot more evidence to point at the defendant," Madeira said after the verdict. "Those shoeprints were the linchpin."
Beyond that, Madeira said, the jury heard that Chisley had approached three acquaintances after the crime occurred and asked them to serve as his alibi. One, a former girlfriend, told police she thought it strange that Chisley would use the word "alibi," and it made her suspicious, Madeira said.
Muir, Chisley's lawyer, said after her closing argument that the prosecution had not proved its case.
"For the amount of blood at the scene from this vicious attack, there was no blood inside the car that my client was driving that night," Muir said. "According to the forensic pathologist, the victim had 41 defense wounds. He was fighting for his life, and yet my client had no scratches, bruises or signs of a struggle."