WEST CHESTER - An appearance on the witness stand evoked two faces from Michael G. McGrory - one apparently sympathetic, even remorseful, and the other hot-tempered and desperate.
Either way he's a killer.
McGrory, 31, of North Coventry, pleaded guilty in February to the murders of Kerry and Katherine Schadler and their unborn baby on Nov. 22, 2002.
His co-defendant Matthew Eshbach, who turns 29 today, is on trial facing the death penalty for his alleged role in the same killings.
District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll on Tuesday called McGrory to testify against Eshbach - his former best friend.
McGrory, in shackles and sporting prison garb consisting of a light blue shirt and dark blue pants, told the court how he strangled Kerry Schadler to death.
"I took my right arm wrapped it around the front of his neck and pulled it in tight with my left hand," McGrory said as he sobbed. "I just kept it like that for a long time, two or three minutes. Then he stopped moving. When I was done he just seemed dead."
Then he then blamed Eshbach for Katherine Schadler's death.
McGrory testified he had leaned over and begun to strangle Katherine Schadler, but then he stopped.
"I let go and as soon as I let go," McGrory said, "he (Eshbach) ripped her into the back seat."
Eshbach had been sitting in the rear of McGrory's 1994 Eagle Vision. According to McGrory's testimony, he had been pushing Katherine Schadler toward McGrory as he tried to strangle her.
When McGrory stopped, he said Eshbach grasped Katherine Schadler's neck with his hands and pulled her upper torso towards the back seat. Schadler was 22 weeks pregnant at the time.
McGrory turned away, he said, but he heard "sounds of ruckus."
"When she was pulled into the backseat," he said, "she never moved again."
McGrory became aggressive and belligerent during cross examination with little egging from defense attorney Christian J. Hoey. Twice the attorney asked Common Pleas Judge Juan R. Sanchez to intervene.
Hoey pressed McGrory on his motives for testifying.
The murder's plea bargain, which would earn him life in prison rather than the death penalty, stipulates he deliver a truthful testimony against Eshbach.
Hoey scoured over McGrory's testimony and sworn statements to the police, noting any inconstancies. McGrory accused the attorney of misleading the jurors.
"I want them to believe the truth, and you can't handle the truth," McGrory said, borrowing a line from the movies. "I've made my peace with God."
He insisted he was prepared to plead guilty to the murders without the state's deal, but his public defender would not allow him to do so because he faced the death penalty.
"I wanted to so it did not have to come to this trial," McGrory said. "I wanted to bring closure for the (Schadler) family."
The Schadlers family and friends filled nearly half of the courtroom. A few left the room weeping as McGrory described the murders.
The series of events leading to the couple's murder began in McGrory's home at the Valley View apartments in the borough of Pottstown.
At about 6 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2002, McGrory said he spoke with Eshbach and arranged to meet him for a few beers later that night. Shortly after he received a call from Ian Taylor.
McGrory, Taylor, 23, Joshua Sheeler, 23, and Travis Drumheller, 21, had committed a series of violent armed robberies between Chester County and Erie.
They all pleaded guilty to the Sept. 30, 2002 robbery of La Taverna restaurant in Schuylkill Township. The gang stole $10,000 from the restaurant as well as the manager's Dodge Durango.
Taylor called McGrory to inform him he had been contacted by a detective from the Pottstown Police, according to McGrory.
The two agreed to meet at a local bar to discuss the situation.
Police had been tipped off to Taylor by 23 year-old James Ingram 3rd. Ingram, who testified on Monday, faced his own burglary charges and said he hoped to soften his sentence by helping the police catch McGrory's gang.
Ingram described Kerry Schadler as his best friend. He worked with Schadler and robbery suspect Sheeler at Rockland Immunochemical, a pharmaceutical company in Montgomery County.
Ingram said Schadler mentioned he believed Sheeler was involved with the La Taverna robbery and three more robberies in Montgomery County.
After talking with Taylor, McGrory contacted Eshbach and firmed up plans to meet him at the Touch of Glass bar in Pottstown.
The men learned of a rumor that Kerry Schadler had been telling people at work he was involved with the gang's robberies.
Paranoia washed over the group. They began to fear Kerry Schadler would tell the police what he knew. Sheeler suggested leaving the bar and visiting the Schadlers Lower Providence apartment, McGrory said.
"As soon as we get done at the bar (Sheeler) wanted to go over there," McGrory said. "He said, 'He's dead." Ian (Taylor) said, 'Yeah, he's dead.'"
Eshbach became interested in what Schadler knew because his nephew Travis Drummheller had participated.
McGrory said he convinced Sheeler and Taylor to return to the bar, and "two or three times I told Matt (Eshbach) to 'Go home. This isn't your problem, just go home."
Eshbach refused, McGrory testified, and they traveled there together in McGrory's car.
The men were standing outside the Schadlers apartment and were discovered.
McGrory decked Kerry Schadler with a punch after the door was opeened.
According to McGrory, Eshbach ripped a phone cord from the wall which McGrory used to bind Kerry Schadler' hands behind his back. McGrory sat on Kerry Schadler's back, pinning him to the sofa.
They decided to kidnap the couple.
Katherine was loaded into the front seat of the car, McGrory said, and Kerry was put in the back with Eshbach.
The foursome traveled on Route 100 to Route 23, then stopped near Routes 23 and 345. McGrory said the fog was so think he could not see five feet in front past the hood of the car.
They pulled over on desolate portion of the road, McGrory said, and he took Katherine out of the car.
"This is the first time I asked her anything," he testified. "She said she never talked to the police. Kerry did but he didn't say anything. They wouldn't burn Josh like that."
He then grabbed Kerry Schadler by the shirt and pulled him from the back seat.
"I kept shaking him telling him, why would you want to talk to the police."
According to testimony on Monday, Kerry Schadler had been questioned by police at his apartment. However he offered the police no information.
Kerry Schadler, with his hands still bound, and McGrory began to struggle.
McGrory strangled him to death. He returned Schadlers body with help from Eshbach, he said, to the backseat of the car and tossed a sweater over his face.
McGrory began to drive away. No one in the car spoke, expect for Katherine Schadler, who asked if her husband was alive.
After driving for 30 minutes, McGrory asked Katherine Schadler to lean toward him. He said he wrapped his arm around her neck to strangle her, but she wriggled free.
Eshbach, McGrory contends, finished killing Katherine Schadler.
Now they had two bodies to get rid of.
The drove around for several hours, considering their options, said McGrory.
They eventually found a secluded corner of Tow Path Park in East Coventry. It was 5 a.m.
A sanitation worker found the bodies hours later.