Murderer pleads guilty, gets life sentence

Charles E. McGhee

BELLEFONTE — Charles E. McGhee has pled guilty to first-degree murder for killing his wife, Courtney McGhee of Bellefonte, on June 6, 2017.

He entered his plea yesterday and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

He also pled guilty to first-degree arson for trying to burn down the family residence to destroy evidence of his crime.

He was to be transferred immediately to state prison to start serving his sentence, according to Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna’s office.

According to reports, McGhee murdered his 41-year-old wife by striking her in the head with a blunt object, then set three separate fires in the basement of the residence in the 1000 block of Shady Lane Extension, while the couple’s young daughter slept upstairs. The daughter awoke to the sound of the fire alarm around 11 p.m. and walked out of her bedroom to see her father fleeing the scene.

McGhee was arrested later that night, after he hit a tractor-trailer on I-80 near the Jersey Shore exit.

“It is the wish of Courtney McGhee’s family that she be remembered as a caring, giving, devoted mother and a provider for her family,” Cantorna said. He also warned about domestic violence.

“If you or someone you know is in a relationship that appears abusive, controlling and potentially dangerous, you should presume that in fact, it is. If you are in a relationship where you feel you are unsafe, presume that you are,” Cantorna stated in a news release.

Ending a relationship is the most dangerous thing for victims of domestic violence, and it is critical that leaving be done with planning and forethought.

Threats by an abusive partner to kill him or herself also indicate an escalated risk, the news release continued.

“If you or anyone else finds themselves ready to leave an abusive relationship, the family of Courtney McGhee asks you to please contact the Centre County Women’s Resource Center or other qualified professionals to ask for help before doing so,” the release stated.