Dancer's murderer gets life in prison John Denofa, 38, will not be eligible for parole until 2032. "I pray every day that the real killer is found," he said.

Posted: February 22, 2003

MOUNT HOLLY — John Denofa did not take the stand in the fall during his murder trial, which lasted nearly a month. But the Bucks County businessman had plenty to say yesterday before being given a life sentence for throwing exotic dancer Rachel Siani to her death from a turnpike connector bridge over the Delaware River in March 2000.

After tearful statements from Siani's father, stepmother and cousin, Denofa snapped his head toward her family and friends when it was his turn to speak and told them sharply: "I did not kill Rachel. I am not a murderer. I have been wrongly convicted.

"I grieve for Rachel," Denofa, 38, said. "I grieve for her loved ones and I pray every day that the real killer is found and my name is cleared."

Denofa focused on Richard Siani, Rachel's father, as he spoke. Richard Siani said after the sentencing that he was not troubled by Denofa's words.

"That's what I would expect from him," he said. "I don't believe there is any remorse in him at all."

The dark, slicked-back hair Denofa had during the trial has been cropped and is graying some. As he was led away to prison, he raised his cuffed hands to his lips and blew a kiss to his wife, Lisa.

Janet Siani, Rachel's stepmother, told Denofa that he could have spared her family a lot of pain had he confessed. "We know in our hearts that John Denofa knows things he is not saying," she said.

That theme was continued by Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi, who tried the case himself.

"He's not going to ever reveal what happened that day, but he knows what he did," Bernardi told the court. "He gets to look in the mirror every day and know exactly how he murdered Rachel Siani."

Denofa did not react when Judge Thomas Smith Jr.'s booming voice told him he was getting life in prison. Neither did his wife, parents or in-laws.

A few subdued cheers were whispered on the Siani side of the courtroom gallery.

The jury took just two hours to find Denofa guilty on Nov. 19. He will not be permitted to seek parole until 2032.

Rachel Siani, 21, attended Bucks County Community College and worked as a dancer at Diva's International Gentlemen's Club on Route 13 in Bristol Township, where Denofa was a regular on Tuesday nights.

At the trial, witnesses testified they saw Denofa and Siani leave the club and enter the adjacent motel in the early morning hours of March 29, 2000. The club has since closed.

Prosecutors, who did not present a motive for the killing, said Denofa choked Siani into unconsciousness and dumped her out of the room's second-floor window.

Next, prosecutors said, he put her in the back of his pickup truck, drove toward New Jersey, stopped on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Turnpike Bridge, and threw her over the side.

Siani's body was found under the bridge in Burlington Township, where she landed after falling 112 feet.

Fuzzy videotapes from turnpike tollbooths, showing a truck similar to Denofa's heading into New Jersey with what appeared to be a body in the back and returning empty, were played at his trial.

Denofa contended that he was framed by "the real killer" in an elaborate setup that involved someone copying his truck keys, then taking the vehicle from the motel and using it to dispose of Siani's body.

Siani's blood was found on the sidewalk below Denofa's motel room and in the back of his truck.

The verdict will likely be appealed, said Albert Cepparulo, Denofa's attorney.

Contact staff writer Joel Bewley at 609-261-0900 or jbewley@phillynews.com.

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