CLEARFIELD – A Philipsburg man accused of the murder of a San Diego, Calif. man pleaded guilty Friday in Clearfield County Court.
Ryan Michael Gaines, 30, 136 Lil Troy Dr., Philipsburg, was sentenced by Judge Paul Cherry to 20 to 40 years in state prison for murder in the third degree, robbery, manufacture/delivery/possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and abuse of a corpse.
Prior to sentencing, Gaines stated “I am sorry for what I did.”
The original plea agreement was for a 15-year minimum sentence, but Cherry rejected that and asked for a minimum of 20 years. Gaines agreed to this.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Ronald Bruce Ford Jr., 40, had been staying with someone in Centre County before his family reported him missing in February of 2013. Police received a report that the last person seen with Ford was Gaines, who was living in Morrisdale at the time.
When police spoke with Gaines he confirmed that he picked up Ford on Feb. 21, 2013 and took him back to a Morrisdale residence to spend the night.
Police conducted a search of the Gaines residence on March 1, 2013. One of the officers found a blood-stained mattress on a bed that was covered by two bath towels. The blood was sent to the DNA lab for testing and was later confirmed as belonging to Ford.
Gaines, who was incarcerated at the Clearfield County Jail on unrelated charges, was interviewed again on June 2, 2013. This time he told police he would show them where Ford’s body was located. The next day, Gaines was released into police custody. He led officers to a wooded area off Rolling Stone Road in Covington Township where the remains were found.
Dental records later confirmed the body was indeed Ford. An examination determined the victim was shot in the face under the chin. One small projectile was found in the victim’s skull.
On Nov. 7 Gaines was questioned once again. He told investigators that after he picked up Ford that night he took him back to his residence. He, Ford and a woman stayed up throughout the night playing cards and doing drugs. He and the woman then went to one bedroom and Ford to another.
Gaines continued to do drugs and decided to kill Ford. He grabbed a shotgun and walked to the other bedroom where Ford was located. He went to the room multiple times before he opened the door and shot Ford, who was sitting on the bed. He took Ford’s lockbox, which had drugs and money in it. He and the woman then used some of the drugs and sold some to others.
They left the residence and he returned later by himself. He then removed the body by dragging it out to his truck. He loaded it into his truck and drove to a wooded area along Gray Hampton Road where he left it. The next night, he picked it up and moved it to the area where it was recovered by police.
He burned the victim’s clothing and the bedding. On his way home, he threw Ford’s lock box, cell phone and watch in the Susquehanna River, Gaines said.