Pa. Man Sentenced in Murder-for-Profit Plot

A man who pleaded guilty to hiring a hit man to kill a used car dealer for insurance money was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Lawrence A. Skiba of White Oak sobbed after a federal judge sentenced him for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme that ended in the death of 68-year-old Robert Cooper in December 2000.

Skiba’s wife, Sherry, also cried, telling the judge, “you gave him life.”

Skiba pleaded guilty in June 2004 to charges that he hired Eugene DeLuca of Oak Lawn, Ill., to murder Cooper, and agreed to testify against DeLuca at his January trial. In exchange, Skiba’s mandatory life sentence was reduced, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

Skiba, a former electrician, testified that he took out three life insurance policies worth $90,000 on Cooper and agreed to pay DeLuca $25,000 for the killing. The insurance companies didn’t pay the claims.

DeLuca maintained his innocence and testified that Skiba killed Cooper and framed him.

Two days after his conviction, DeLuca hanged himself in the Allegheny County Jail.

Friends and family of Skiba testified before his sentencing, hoping to persuade U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond to deliver a lighter sentence. Skiba told the judge he made a “horrendous mistake” and would make amends if he was given a reduced sentence.

Diamond said the testimony of character witnesses “cannot ease or mollify the nature of this horrendous crime he’s guilty of.”

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