Wife ruled competent in fatal stabbing of Penn star

Matthew White had expressed concern over his wife's condition.
Matthew White had expressed concern over his wife's condition.
Posted: February 27, 2013

The Delaware County woman accused in the stabbing death of her husband, a former University of Pennsylvania basketball star, has been declared competent to stand trial and waived her preliminary hearing Monday in a courtroom packed with friends.

Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, 52, wore a red prison jumpsuit and shackles as she was led into Media District Court. On Feb. 11, she allegedly killed her husband of 25 years, Matthew White, as he lay sleeping in bed at their Nether Providence home. She is charged with first-degree murder and is being held at the Delaware County jail without bail.

Garcia-Pellon, a longtime teacher in the Nether Providence School District, told police she saw her husband viewing pornography on his computer - a charge friends say is unlikely - and felt compelled to kill him.

When asked by Judge Stephanie Klein whether Garcia-Pellon had been seen by a psychiatrist, lawyer Kathryn Labrum said her client had been examined and appeared competent to stand trial.

"Maria, we love you, we are praying for you," an unidentified friend said as the defendant walked from court. Many of her supporters wore a silver ribbon to support mental health causes.

White was the starting center on the 1979 Penn team that reached the NCAA Final Four. He was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers, but instead played professional basketball in Spain, where he also met his bride, friends said.

White earned an M.B.A. from the Wharton School in 1983 and worked as a technical writer for a software company.

The couple's wedding was a traditional Catholic service in the village of Astudillo, north of Madrid, where Garcia-Pellon's family had a second home. The couple raised their two children, Matthew and Anna, in Spain, until moving to Pennsylvania about 12 years ago, friends said.

In the weeks before his death, White expressed concern over his wife's mental status, friends said.

The day before the slaying, White took his wife to a hospital suffering from a mental breakdown, Garcia-Pellon's lawyer said. She had an appointment for follow-up treatment with a psychiatrist the next day.

In an interview last week, Rick Talisman, 55, of Bethesda, Md., said he met White 47 years ago in Cub Scouts and had kept in touch since.

"I don't think she did this out of anything but mental illness," Talisman said of Garcia-Pellon.

White had told Talisman that Garcia-Pellon was having such issues, he said.

Talisman described Garcia-Pellon as "quiet but always very sweet." He said he never heard a harsh word between the couple.

"This is not the [Garcia-Pellon] we know," said Bob Astrove, another longtime friend of White's from Maryland. Astrove said he was struggling with his friend's death but did not feel anger toward Garcia-Pellon. "In an odd sort of way, it was not her that did that."

A memorial service for White will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Swarthmore.

Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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