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Police: Missing Penn State Professor Murdered, Pushed Off 80-Foot Ledge

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (KDKA/AP) - The body of a Penn State professor who's been missing for a week has been found in a quarry, and police said Friday they've charged a man with luring him there under the ruse they'd harvest marijuana plants but instead pushed him off an 80-foot cliff.

The remains of Ronald Bettig, a 56-year-old associate professor of media studies, were found Thursday, a week after he was reported missing. Penn State police launched an investigation and transferred the case to Pennsylvania State Police this week.

On Friday, police charged George Ishler Jr., 39, of Pennsylvania Furnace, with first- and third-degree murder, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence in Bettig's death, according to online court documents.

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According to a criminal complaint, Ishler told police during an interview Friday that Bettig recently signed a will, and he believed there was "a possibility of financial gain" for him and a woman who'd been living with Bettig. Police claim he eventually admitted to pushing Bettig.

No attorney information was available for Ishler in online court documents.

Bettig, of Lemont, had recently befriended Ishler and the woman, who police say in the complaint were "known drug users."

According to the criminal complaint, Ishler drove Bettig to the quarry "under a ruse" that he grew marijuana plants nearby and told Bettig they could harvest them. Instead, Ishler pushed Bettig, who fell 80 feet to his death, police said.

Investigators say Ishler told state police that he "heard the crunches of the body as it hit the quarry floor."

The criminal complaint reports that a witness near the quarry reported seeing people matching Ishler and the woman's description in what would turn out to be Bettig's car.

Ishler and the woman first told police they had last seen Bettig after they returned home from a trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Aug. 12.

Detectives interviewed Ishler and the woman multiple times and heard conflicting statements, police said.

According to the criminal complaint, the woman told state troopers that she and Ishler had allegedly come up with a plan to drown Bettig in the surf at Rehoboth Beach. However, that plan was eventually scrapped.

Police found Bettig's vehicle also on Thursday near the quarry and discovered his body at the bottom of the ravine.

According to Penn State's website, Bettig joined the College of Communications in 1988 and was an associate professor of media studies. He taught courses on the political economy of communications and wrote at least two books on the subject.

Ishler was arraigned and is being held in the Centre County Correctional Facility. He was denied bail. His preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 31 at the Bellefonte Courthouse.

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(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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