EBENSBURG - Former Indiana County resident Sherman Lynn Holes was ordered Thursday to spend the next 10 to 30 years in prison for the June 2010 beating death of an elderly Northern Cambria man.
The sentencing by Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker marked the end of a yearslong case, which required more than two years of investigative work and use of a new DNA testing method to link Holes to the crime.
Police said Holes, 44, formerly of Cherry Tree used a 2-by-4 board to beat Arthur "Arch" Henry, 79, inside his mobile home over an argument about money on June 30, 2010.
Police said Henry was struck repeatedly in the head, resulting in massive blunt force trauma and brain injuries. He died of his wounds three days later at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.
Holes wasn't arrested and charged until August 2012.
Henry's daughter, Florence Henry, and his brother, James Henry, both attended the sentencing, and Florence asked to speak before Krumenacker.
Choking back tears, she told the court that her last memory of her father was of seeing him in a hospital bed, so severely beaten that she almost didn't recognize him.
She also told Holes that he not only took away her father, but also her children's grandfather.
Holes told Florence that drugs fueled the attack on her father.
"There's no excuse for what happened," he said. "I was messed up on drugs. I'm totally sorry for what happened."
Krumenacker commented only to tell Holes that his crime was "absolutely, totally senseless," before ordering he serve no less than the next decade in prison for third-degree murder.
He will receive credit for time served in Cambria County Prison beginning Nov. 5, 2012, Krumenacker said.
First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long said while no family can ever expect to be satisfied with a plea deal, the possibility that Holes could be found not guilty after a trial was a risk Henry's daughter and brother wouldn't take.
The method used to match Holes' DNA with samples found on the bottom of the 2-by-4 used in the beating, along with blood found on the passenger's seat of a vehicle used to drive Holes to Henry's house, goes down to the alleles, which is just a small part of a gene on a chromosome, which, in turn, is only a small part of a person's DNA, Long said.
Long said prosecutors expected the defense to challenge the method in court.
"It was important for us to let everybody know there was a chance," he said, and Henry's family didn't want to risk the DNA evidence swaying a jury.
In addition, he said, the woman who drove Holes to Henry's house presented different stories to police and in court, and it might have created doubt.
Given what prosecutors could prove, he said, the commonwealth was satisfied with the deal.
Holes entered the guilty plea in December to avoid a trial, which had been scheduled for next month.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.