A Kennett Square man was sentenced Wednesday to 20 to 40 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend in her dorm room at Millersville University.

A Lancaster County judge sentenced Gregorio Orrostieta, 21, to the maximum possible penalty. A jury found Orrostieta guilty of third-degree murder on May 2, after a nine-day trial, for killing his girlfriend, 18-year-old Karlie Hall. Hall, a Unionville High School graduate from Chadds Ford, was a freshman at Millersville when Orrostieta, who was 19 at the time, strangled and beat her to death Feb. 8, 2015. Hall’s death was the first homicide ever on Millersville’s campus, which is located outside the city of Lancaster.

Orrostieta told authorities he got into a fight with Hall over spilled noodles on the night of her death. During the trial, the prosecution argued that Orrostieta had intentionally strangled Hall to death, but the defense argued that she choked on her own blood, after an internal wound from a previous injury reopened during the confrontation between Hall and Orrostieta.

According to reports, Hall and Orrostieta had been dating for about 11 months. Orrostieta was a graduate of Kennett High School and he remained in the area after graduation, but he would periodically visit Hall at Millersville after she began attending the university. Orrostieta was visiting Hall at the university over the weekend leading up to her murder.

According to an arrest affidavit, Orrostieta told authorities he and Hall had argued at a party on the night of Feb. 7, 2015 and that she had hit him. He said they made up and returned to her dorm room around 1:30 a.m. Feb. 8, 2015. Orrostieta said he and Hall got into a physical confrontation after he had made Ramen noodles for her, but then spilled the soup on her. Orrostieta told officers he had shoved Hall, causing her to fall to the ground and hit her head on a chair, and then gave her a “back hand” to her face, causing her to become unresponsive, the affidavit said.

Police responding to a cardiac arrest call to the Bard Hall dormitory, where Hall lived, found Hall unresponsive around 5:20 a.m., according to the affidavit. When officers arrived at the dorm room, Orrostieta was attempting to perform CPR on Hall, and he had blood smeared on his face and a dried cut on his forehead; his shirt was ripped, exposing scratch marks on his chest, and he had blood on his hands and jeans, the affidavit said.

At the trial, which began April 21, the prosection and defense painted two different pictures of Orrostieta. Lancaster County Assistant District Attorney Susan Elizabeth Ellison described Orrostieta as a suspicious suitor who carried on a contentious and abusive relationship with Hall when she went away to school after graduating from Unionville High School in 2014.

Orrostieta’s defense attorney, Peter C. Bower, said he was a caring boyfriend who helped nurse Hall back to health after an accident at the university — an incident that left the Chadds Ford teenager with internal injuries that ultimately led to her death in the room with him.

This dispute over the cause of Hall’s death was also argued between two pathologists during the trial. Dr. Wayne Ross of the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office, who conducted an autopsy of Hall following her death, showed the jurors photographs showing the extent of Hall’s injuries.

“Her face, neck and upper chest were purple, which indicated that she had been strangled,” Ross testified. “She was on her back — when she died. She was trying to defend herself as she was being beaten. She was putting her arms up as she was being struck.”

Ross said Hall died at 3 a.m., between five and 15 minutes from when the beating started.

But in response, Bower called his own expert to rebut Ross’s conclusion. Dr. C. Peter Speth told the panel that Hall had not been strangled, but rather asphyxiated from blood that ran into her lungs after she broke open injured arteries behind her eye during a struggle with Orrostieta. The vessels had been broken in a fall that Hall had on her way home from a party on Jan. 25, 2015.

“Karlie was not strangled,” Speth said. “There were no significant blunt injuries. I cannot find any evidence of strangulation or a skull fracture.”

Speth is a controversial figure in forensic circles. He was convicted in 1997 of witness tampering in an investigation involving a man’s death in a New Jersey prison, and had his license to practice medicine suspended.

Ross later offered brief rebuttal testimony in response to Speth’s opinion. He called them scientifically impossible, and said that if Hall had aspirated blood into her lungs, there would have been blood splattered all over the room. There was not.

Hall was remembered by friends and family as a hardworking young lady who loved her two sisters, animals and rugby. Unionville High School Principal Paula Massanari said Hall enjoyed helping others, and she was a devoted sister to her twin, Kristin, and older sister, Katelyn.

Karlie Hall was a member of the Unionville Rugby Club and a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance group, which works to create a friendly environment for students. She also loved being around animals and was a volunteer at LaMancha Animal Rescue in Unionville.

Before going to Millersville, Hall worked at the Arby’s Restaurant in Chadds Ford until it closed, and while she was at Millersville, she also worked part-time at a restaurant in the area to help defray her tuition costs.

John Renzetti, whose daughter Stephanie was Hall’s best friend, said she was like a member of the family, and she had dreams of one day owning and operating her own business.

Digital First Media staff writers Michael P. Rellahan and Fran Maye contributed to this report.

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