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Prosecutors, defense outline strategies as trial against Johnstown man accused of killing wife begins

In World
June 04, 2024

EBENSBURG, Pa. – Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Aurandt told jurors Monday they would hear a homicide case in three parts against a Johnstown man who is standing trial on charges that he killed his wife.

The prosecution’s case against Brian Bradley Giles, 48, is built around character witnesses, expert testimony and conflicting statements by Giles himself, Aurandt said.

“You’re going to hear a story of jealousy, loss of power, loss of control and loss of life,” she said in her opening statement.

Defense attorney Timothy Burns pushed back in his own opening statement. Burns and David Weaver are representing Giles, who is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and hindering prosecution in the death of Nancy Giles. She went missing in October 2018, and her skeletal remains were discovered in May 2019 on the Inclined Plane hillside in downtown Johnstown.

“Don’t let this be a conviction of convenience,” Burns said.

He said that prosecutors need someone to blame for Nancy Giles’ murder, and argued that although the slaying was a “horrible crime,” Brian Giles is innocent.

“I submit to you, there is nothing to implicate our client,” Burns said.

Monday was the first day of what is scheduled to be a five-day trial.

Aurandt also read in her opening statement from a letter that she alleged was written by Brian Giles, allegedly stating that his wife died of a seizure in the shower and that, because he was not in the right frame of mind, he and an accomplice hid her body on the hillside where it was later found. She did not say who he allegedly wrote the letter to.

Aurandt is prosecuting the case with Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Warren L. Crilly III. They called eight witnesses on the first day of the trial, with little cross-examination from the defense.

Much of Monday’s proceedings focused on character testimony from people familiar with the allegedly tense relationship between Brian Giles and Nancy Giles.

Witness No. 1 said they received phone calls from Nancy Giles almost daily, but from the time she began dating Brian Giles, they rarely spoke unless Brian Giles was on the line as well.

Witness No. 1 said Nancy Giles, who did not have a cellphone, would sometimes borrow others’ phones and make secretive calls.

Witness No. 1 also said Nancy Giles stopped taking care of herself when she began living in Johnstown with Brian Giles around 2015, always wearing ragged clothing and no longer using makeup or wearing jewelry.

Witness No. 2 said they were familiar with the couple and saw Brian Giles demoralize his wife regularly. Before Nancy Giles’ disappearance, Witness No. 2 was helping her fill out a Johnstown Housing Authority application to get a place of her own, they said.

Witness No. 3 testified that Brian Giles once threatened to hurt his wife and bury her in the woods.

Witness No. 4 testified that, when they asked Brian Giles about Nancy Giles shortly after she was reported missing, he said he killed her and hid her body where no one could find it.

Several witnesses mentioned the defendant suspected his wife of cheating, which led to jealousy, they alleged.

The day’s proceedings closed with brief testimony from Johnstown Police Department Det. Brad Christ about what he found when Nancy Giles’ remains were located, and Det. Sgt. Cory Adams about a search of Facebook pages belonging to Brian Giles.

Adams said that around March 2019, he obtained data from five months earlier for a Facebook account allegedly belonging to Brian Giles. This account was reportedly created in October 2018, shortly after Nancy Giles went missing and around the same time the couple’s joint account was deleted.

On cross-examination, Burns asked why that account stood out from several others allegedly belonging to Brian Giles.

Adams cited the timeline of the account’s creation, said the relationship status was set to “single,” and said five friend requests were sent to women from the account on Oct. 15 and 16, 2018.

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