One year ago, 21-year-old Ashley Whiting was getting a new car and planning a trip to Disney World with her family.
At the same time, her husband was planning to kill her.
The young mother was brutally stabbed in her own bed in the middle of the night on July 1, and on Wednesday Daniel Whiting, 27, was found guilty of her murder.
An Erie County Court jury took only 50 minutes to convict Whiting of second-degree murder, a verdict that was received by Ashley’s family with tears. Judge Kenneth F. Case set sentencing for Aug. 15, when Whiting could receive up to 25 years to life in prison.
He has been jailed since his arrest last July 11.
With no confession from the suspect, prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable presented a case built on physical evidence at the scene, DNA analysis, interviews with Whiting after the crime and testimony from three inmates who told how Whiting admitted that he killed his wife and described how he planned to get away with it.
The trial, including jury selection, lasted almost two weeks.
Last July 1, neighbors in Lackawanna were shocked by the news that a couple had been attacked by an unknown knife-wielding intruder while they slept in the home at 135 Madison Ave. Initial reports said the wife was killed and the husband – Whiting – was in critical condition from his injuries. Prosecutors said Whiting misjudged what he was doing that night when he stabbed himself twice in the calf, accidentally severing an artery and almost losing his leg.
High school friends of Ashley Whiting from Immaculata Academy held candlelight vigils in the following days while investigators quickly noticed that the evidence in the house didn’t fit the version of events that Whiting was promoting.
In closing statements Wednesday, defense attorney Andrew LoTempio asked the jury to consider that no other suspect was found because police targeted Whiting “within about 45 minutes” of the killing and didn’t look for anyone else. He suggested that they overlooked other potential evidence, and that they tried to twist Whiting’s words in their interviews and trick him into slipping up.
The defense presented no witnesses during the trial and LoTempio made it clear that it was not his job to prove the negative – that Whiting was not the person who stabbed his wife 30 times while their two children slept nearby.
“The fact is, I don’t know who did this,” the lawyer said. “I have no idea why anybody would do this to another human being.”
He did, however, agree that whoever did kill Ashley Whiting planned the assault and did his best not to get caught.
“Somebody wrapped up a knife, went into a house and stabbed someone,” LoTempio said. “Whoever did this is a diabolical, calculating animal who thinks they are an evil genius”
Such an evil genius would have had no reason to leave Daniel Whiting alive, or to leave the murder weapon on the floor, Curtin Gable said in her closing statement.
“The man who murdered Ashley Whiting did not break in,” she said. “He was there all the time. It was her husband. He killed her. He intended to kill her, and he desperately tried to make it look like it was somebody else.”
It took less than a hour for the jurors to agree.