Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Convicted murderer blames lawyer, ex-wife

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Northampton area man Gregory Graf, 56, is currently serving a life sentence on charges that he lured his stepdaughter, Jessica Padgett, to his home in November 2014 so he could kill her and then film himself having sexual relations with her dead body. For five days after this murder, he even participated in a search for her, knowing all along that he had buried her body behind the shed of his Allen Township home.

He finally confessed on the sixth day after her death. Police even discovered video of him performing sexual acts on her lifeless body. It took a jury just six minutes to convict. Graf filed no motion to overturn this verdict. He took no appeal. But in papers he recently filed with the court, he’s blaming his lawyer for his predicament.

That lawyer is prominent Philadelphia defense attorney Jack McMahon, who is currently representing Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski on federal political corruption charges.

According to Graf’s handwritten appeal, he paid McMahon $60,000 to represent him on the murder charges. McMahon also had been representing Graf in a wrongful death action brought by Jessica Padgett’s family, as well as a divorce action filed by Graf’s wife, Danelle Bittner.

Danelle Bittner was Jessica Padgett’s mother.

In the criminal case, Graf is now saying he “blacked out in a fit of anger” after getting into an argument with his stepdaughter. He claims he was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and even hallucinogenic mushrooms.

His statement now is in sharp contrast to his confession to police. He also fails to explain why he would have sex with his stepdaughter’s corpse.

President Judge Stephen Baratta has scheduled a hearing Aug. 18 on Graf’s claim that McMahon was ineffective. He has also appointed Easton Attorney Catherine Kollet to represent Graf.

District Attorney John Morganelli, who called Graf’s claim frivolous, suggests his action is prompted, at least in part as a result of the pending civil actions.

In the wrongful death action, Judge Anthony Beltrami has already granted judgment on the pleadings with respect to liability on most of the case. His June 30 order has deferred the question of damages for a trial.

In the divorce action, McMahon entered into an agreement in February on Graf’s behalf regarding distribution of the marital assets. “He authorized me to agree to it,” McMahon reported in open court. “And that was through a telephone call made with him this morning.”

But Graf denies that ever happened. He accuses McMahon of skipping out on hearings, status conferences and meetings. He even goes so far as to claim “both of the Plaintiffs are partly culpable in the death of the victim ... “ He fails to elaborate. It is also unclear why he is referring to “both of the Plaintiffs” when there is only one Plaintiff in the divorce case, and that’s his now ex-wife.