WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Faced with $55,000 in credit-card bills and the end of a comfortable lifestyle, David Crist decided the answer was to throw his 9-year-old deaf daughter in front of a truck.
Diane Crist was hit twice but did not die, and her father's scheme to cash in on her $200,000 life-insurance policy in 1993 ended with his conviction yesterday for attempted murder.
"He drove a Lincoln Town Car. He liked to go out all the time. He often disappeared for days at a time," said prosecutor Kenneth Osokow in closing arguments. "He wanted to keep himself in this same lifestyle; he didn't want to go backward."
Diane was not Crist's only victim, investigators say.
The 38-year-old father of four is charged with trying to electrocute his 4-year-old daughter for her insurance money and hiring someone to kill his only brother for an inheritance.
Authorities also reopened investigations into the deaths of his father in 1968, his mother's fiance in 1976 and his mother in 1981, although no charges have been filed.
"Justice was a little delayed, but justice was served," said Thomas Marino, another prosecutor. "Mr. Crist will stay behind bars where he belongs."
Prosecutors said Crist was so deeply in debt that he concocted a scheme to fake a flat tire on a rural road, then push his daughter in front of a pickup truck driven by an accomplice, a woman who testified he offered to pay her $5,000.
Jurors sat riveted last week as Diane, now 13, testified through a sign-language interpreter that her father twice threw her onto a road to be hit by a truck.
"When I got up I was limping and I said, `Daddy, help me.' But he came over, picked me up and threw me back down on the road!"
The woman who drove the truck, Lisa Cohick, 31, said she swerved at the last minute both times to avoid a more direct hit. Cohick, who was not charged, said Crist threatened to harm her children if she didn't cooperate.
Diane's right ankle was broken, her face, knee and thigh were scraped, and her side was bruised.
Defense lawyer William Miele had called it "a run-of-the-mill accident."
Crist was not prosecuted right away because the girl did not come forward until 1995.
"Children often don't tell things for many years. That's because they're stuck with their parents," Osokow said. "What was she going to do?"
Crist faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 21.