Man sentenced in killing of woman found in Allentown bin

A man has been sentenced to 30 to 60 years for killing his girlfriend, stuffing her body into a recycling bin and later firing at four police officers, wounding one of them.

Walter Bratvold, 63, pleaded guilty Friday in Lehigh County to third-degree murder in the death of Rose Sieniawski, 59, whose decomposing body was found in February 2016 in a recycling bin at an Allentown apartment complex. Prosecutors said they believe the sentence amounts to a life term, and they would have gone to trial had the defendant been younger and healthier.

Bratvold also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, acknowledging having opened fire on Allentown police officers who tried to question him, hitting a detective in the arm.

"I deeply regret everything that I've done," said Bratvold, telling the judge that he wasn't sure what happened. He said he had been drinking and wasn't taking mental health medication, heard noises in the apartment as if someone was breaking in, and opened fire.

First Assistant District Attorney Steven Luksa said that story didn't make sense, pointing out that the murder weapon would have required cocking between the three shots.

"I don't believe for a moment that he didn't understand what he was doing," Luksa said. He added that he believed there was an element of abuse, since relatives and co-workers reported that Bratvold wouldn't allow the victim to go anywhere alone.

Public defender Carol Marciano said her client had struggled for most of his life with mental health and addiction issues. About two weeks before the shooting, he stopped attending therapy sessions and began drinking heavily, and became "increasingly anxious, hyper-vigilant and paranoid."

"I think he hates himself," Marciano said. "If it's any consolation to the victims and the family, he's going to have to think about this for the rest of his life."

Judge Kelly Banach said she was disturbed by the fact that he didn't seek help after shooting Sieniawski, but hid her body in the apartment until the smell became too bad. "You threw her in the garbage," the judge said, raising her voice. "Who does that?"

"In all the years I been with her, I never laid a finger on her," said Bratvold, who referred to his girlfriend of eight years as his wife. "It only takes once," the judge replied.

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