Pongracz guilty of second degree murder

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Enters no contest plea to reduced charge

By Tom Wilmoth

    The 29-year-old Goode woman, accused of beating her 77-year-old boyfriend to death at his home in Bedford County in 2010, was found guilty Tuesday of second degree murder after entering a no contest plea in connection with the case.

     Kristina Pongracz faces from 5 to 40 years in prison for her conviction. She had faced charges of first degree murder, which was amended to second degree murder as part of the plea agreement, and aggravated malicious wounding, a  charge which the prosecution dropped.
    A sentencing date will be set in November. Both Chief Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers  and Defense Attorney Webster Hogeland expect to present witnesses at the sentencing hearing.
    Hogeland said the victim in the case, William Herchenrider, was “not without fault” as to the relationship, noting that Her-chenrider was in his late 60s when he “plucked a young, impressionable” girl from her job and “brought her into his life.”
    He expects to present evidence about that relationship at sentencing.
    Pongracz was 28 when she was accused of beating Herchenrider, with whom she lived.  Herchenrider died on August 25 of last year after briefly returning home under Hospice care.  Pongracz had been with Herchenrider for 10 years, prior to the incident in May 2010.
    During a statement of the evidence at Tuesday’s hearing, Ayers said Herchenrider and Pongracz had argued over money and he had locked her out of his Goode home. She said when law enforcement arrived on the scene, Herchenrider was found on his hands and knees with flesh torn from both of his arms.
    Ayers said Pongracz was found in her underwear, covered in blood. She said the woman had beaten Herchenrider with his own cane. “He begged her to stop,” Ayers said.
    The confrontation had started on the home’s patio.
    Ayers said a witness tried to pull Pongracz off of the victim, but couldn’t.
    Ayers said Pongracz told officers she was mad “and might have snapped,” and that she pretended to be unconscious when the law enforcement officers arrived at the scene.
     Herchenrider was first transported to Bedford Memorial Hospital and then to Roanoke Memorial. He also spent time in hospitals in Lynchburg and North Carolina before passing away. His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.
    Hogeland told Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James Updike that while he didn’t think his client’s crime was reflected in the charges, she was faced with a dilemma because of the state of double jeopardy law in Virginia. Had she been convicted of both the aggravated malicious wounding charge and second degree murder, Hogeland said the sentencing guidelines for his client would actually have been cut in half. He expects to argue for a sentence under the suggested guidelines.