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Police Charge Man Who Admitted To Shoving Woman Down Mine Shaft

January 23, 1996

MATHER, Pa. (AP) _ Authorities have charged a man who admitted pushing a woman into a 550-foot mine shaft during an argument. A friend of his said he joked about it afterward.

State police accused Franklin ``Junie″ Virgili Jr. of killing Jolene Bowers, even though they haven’t retrieved her body from the Clyde Mine in Morgan Township, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The search will resume today or Wednesday, once safety concerns are resolved. The mine, which dates from the turn of the century, has been closed two years and officials are worried about dangerous gases that may have accumulated in the wood-lined shaft.

Virgili, 26, was jailed without bond.

An arrest warrant said he and Bowers, 20, bought two six-packs of beer Friday night, parked near the mine shaft and had sex in the car.

The two later sat on a steel beam above the mine shaft and began arguing, the warrant said. It said Virgili admitted knocking Bowers into the shaft with his forearm. State police found muddy footprints on the beam.

On Saturday, Virgili told at least three people he had killed Bowers.

``I didn’t believe him,″ said Christa Turner, a friend. ``He was always lying. It was too outrageous, what he was telling us.″

``Besides, he didn’t show any remorse or anything,″ said Turner’s husband, Steve. ``He was kind of snickering about it, acting like it was a joke.″

Authorities said the pair were romantically involved, but Bowers’ family denies that.

Virgili was charged with criminal homicide, a general count that covers everything from involuntary manslaughter to murder. Prosecutors decide later what specific charge to pursue.

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