The 18-year-old girlfriend of an inmate killed allegedly by a cellmate at the Cambria County Prison said Monday that the victim was changing his life around as they awaited the birth of their unborn child.
Megan Owens of Johnstown said that she and 28-year-old William H. Sherry had started dating in January 2011 and had moved in together two months later.
Sherry, who is from Northern Cambria Borough, was strangled to death Saturday night in his cell at the county prison. His cellmate – who has not yet been identified – is suspected in the homicide, but criminal charges have not yet been filed.
“He didn’t follow the law, but he was changing (because of her pregnancy). He was an amazing man,” Owens said.
The victim, who has a criminal record dating back to 2002 – mostly misdemeanor offenses – was picked up Aug. 1 on a bench warrant for being delinquent on costs and fines payments, for not reporting a change of address and failing to report to his probation officer. In addition, he had a federal conviction for assisting in counterfeiting reserve notes.
Owens, who is 14 weeks pregnant, broke down several times as she talked about “Billy.”
She said that he intended to pay off the delinquent costs and fines.
“He showed me the check and said, ‘I’m going to pay the rent and then pay off this fine so I don’t have this hanging over my head,’” she said.
Sherry got an apartment less than a month ago where he and Owens could live together with their baby, the girlfriend said.
Owens said that there are unanswered questions about the murder and wonders whether the prison could have done something about putting the two men in separate cells if they had been having problems.
“It doesn’t seem real. I keep waiting for the jail to call and say it’s a case of mistaken identity, (waiting) for him to walk around the corner and hug me and tell me everything’s going to be OK,” she said.
Sherry had no family to speak of. His mother died in 2009, and he hadn’t been involved with his father, Owens said. Although he had a grave plot next to his mother’s, he told her he wanted to be cremated.
“He said he wants me to keep some of his ashes in a vial around my neck so that (he) would always be to close to my heart,” Owens said.
She said that she intends to make sure their child knows about the father “and how wonderful he was.”
Eric Knopsnyder, editor, contributed to this story.