According to jurors who rendered the verdict, one of the most important elements in the case was the fact that three days before the murder, the couple bought life insurance policies for each other with $100,000 payouts. The insurance salesman testified that at the time of the purchase, Byrne asked, "If somebody came in and murdered me, would I be covered?"
"He was the only one who had the motive or opportunity to kill her," assistant district attorney Patrick Carmody told the jury.
There were also substantial inconsistencies in the stories that Byrne gave to them, police said.
Byrne claimed to have come home and found the body of his wife slumped in a folding chair with a bookcase tilted on top of her, but when police pointed out that autopsy evidence showed that the body must have been lying down for some time, he changed his story.
Police also noticed scratches on his arm the day of the slaying. Byrne at first said the scratches had been made by his 4-month-old-son, then said his wife had done it two days earlier, then said his wife did it just before he had left home on the day of the killing.
Mary Ann Caramanica, the victim's mother, testified at the trial that when she asked Byrne what had happened, all he would say was, "There was an accident."
The victim was a 1990 graduate of Villanova Law School who worked as a part-time legal researcher and who concentrated her efforts on children and youth issues. Byrne, who has an education degree from West Chester University, was unemployed at the time of the murder. The couple also had a 2-year-old daughter.
Sentencing had been postponed while Byrne appealed.
In another celebrated county murder case, action was postponed indefinitely in the case of Chad Franciscus, 20, the Pomeroy man who was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Parkesburg teenager, Michael Devine, in 1991. A sentencing hearing had been scheduled for next week, but it has been postponed because of problems with defense efforts to interview a witness in Florida who is said to have evidence that the defense wants to introduce.