Woman Pleads ‘Guilty But Mentally Ill’ To Kidnapping, Killing Autistic Teen

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John Oyewale Contributor
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A Pennsylvanian woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill in connection with the 2022 kidnapping and murder of an autistic teenager, a prosecutor announced Friday.

“Taylyn Edwards, 20 of Johnstown, entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill in the October, 2022 kidnapping and murder of Hayden Garreffa,” Indiana County District Attorney Robert F. Manzi Jr., announced in a statement. “Edwards entered the plea to the charges of First-Degree Murder and Kidnapping, graded as a Felony of the First Degree.”

A court could accept a defendant’s guilty plea after judging the defendant presented sufficient evidence of mental illness at the time of the crime though the defendant was not legally insane and had intended to commit the crime, according to Manzi’s statement.

“A plea of guilty but mentally ill does not change the grading of an offense nor does it change the sentencing guidelines or mandatory sentences,” Manzi said, according to the statement. “A defendant who pleads guilty but mentally ill shall be provided psychiatric or psychological treatment as available by the Department of Corrections.”

Law enforcement agents arrested Edwards and seven other suspects —including a 14-year-old juvenile — Oct. 24, 2022, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Cliff Greenfield told reporters the day after the arrests. Garreffa’s family reported him missing Oct. 20, 2022 and told troopers it was unlike Garreffa to leave behind his cellphone and medication, being a person with autism, Greenfield said. Investigators reportedly believed the eight suspects kidnapped Garreffa from his grandmother’s home in Buffington Township, Indiana County. Garreffa knew at least one of the suspects, and they allegedly had a personal grievance against him, Greenfield revealed.

Troopers found Garreffa dead on a remote grassy verge near Oneida Mine Road in Brush Valley Township around 4 p.m. Oct. 22, 2022, nearly two miles from his grandmother’s residence where he lived, according to Greenfield. Indiana County Coroner Jerry Overman, Jr. reportedly ruled Garreffa’s death a homicide and determined Garreffa had died two days earlier.

An autopsy revealed Garreffa sustained multiple stab wounds, according to Greenfield. Further investigation revealed the suspects allegedly physically assaulted and stabbed Garreffa before dragging his body over a brief distance to the point where the troopers found the body, according to Greenfield.

Garreffa, a 2021 Forest Hills High School graduate, was an ambitious person “known for his hard work ethic”, and who “loved to scavenge clean outs” and had a “quirky humor, like eating weird combinations of food just to gross people out,” according to his obituary.

Authorities detained the juvenile suspect in a juvenile detention facility and denied all the adults bail, according to Greenfield.

Edwards faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and will be sentenced June 19, according to Manzi.