- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - Three men have been sentenced to prison in the killing of a standout college football player, who died during a mugging almost two years ago.

Eric Wells, 25, of Pittsburgh, Adam Hankins, 25, of Washington, Pa., and Troy Simmons, 24, of East Pittsburgh pleaded guilty in May to 3rd-degree murder and robbery.

Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski on Monday sentenced Wells to 13 to 31 years in prison, Hankins to nine to 25 years and Simmons to seven to 20 years.

Prosecutors said the three attacked 21-year-old Washington & Jefferson College student Timothy McNerney and a friend as they walked from a bar back to campus in October 2012. Authorities said McNerney died after he was pushed backward by Wells and hit his head on the ground.

District Attorney Eugene Vittone said the three planned the robbery, with two pairing off to attack McNerney first, then all three attacking his teammate.

“All of this for a cellphone,” Vittone said. “This senseless crime tore at the fabric of our community.”

Each defendant apologized to the victim’s relatives and asked for forgiveness.

Wells’ attorney, Michael DeRiso, said he believed the judge recognized the case wasn’t a malicious beating.

Denise McNerney wept as she suggested that the three defendants think about her son daily and work to improve themselves while they serve their prison sentences.

“What I want you to understand is you have no idea the pain our family has felt and will feel for years,” she said. “Trying to find forgiveness, this is the hardest decision in my life. But I tell you that I can’t forgive you.”

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