Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Man pleads guilty to slaying of former Pitt star
WASHINGTON, Pa. -- A man was sentenced to 18 to 36 years in
prison after pleading guilty to killing former University of
Pittsburgh football star Jo Jo Heath by stabbing him 26 times with
Heath's own knife.
Jason Allen Benner, 29, of Charleroi, pleaded guilty Wednesday
to third-degree murder in the Dec. 30 death of the 45-year-old
Heath. Before he was sentenced, Benner apologized to Heath's
"Since my arrest, I wanted to end my life. I am responsible for
Jo Jo Heath's death and no word will be able to say how sorry I
am," Benner said. "I don't want no more people getting hurt. I'm
ready for my punishment."
Heath starred for the Panthers as a four-year letterman from
1976-79. He was a defensive back on Pitt's 1976 national
championship team and captained the 1979 squad that went 11-1 and
finished ranked No. 7 by The Associated Press. Heath played briefly
with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, and in
the Canadian Football League.
He last played as a strike replacement player for the New York
Jets in 1987, and since had a record of drug and theft arrests.
Police said Benner told them that he owed Heath $100 for drugs
and the two argued over the debt before Heath pulled a knife and
cut Benner's finger, after which Benner got control of the knife
and stabbed Heath. Benner said he drove Heath's car to a wooded
area and put Heath's body there, then walked home.
Benner also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an escape
attempt and assaulting a guard at the Washington County Jail. He
was sentenced to an additional three months to a year in prison on