Abbott: Dismiss slaying charge
Homicide charges against Colin Abbott in the death of his wealthy parents should be dismissed because his father — after a year — hasn't been declared dead, and the prosecution's case literally hangs on a thread, his defense attorneys argue.
Burned human remains were found on the Abbott family's Brady, Butler County, estate a year ago July 13.
Colin Abbott, 41, is charged with criminal homicide in the deaths of his father and stepmother, Kenneth and Celeste Abbott. The remains of Celeste Abbott, 55, were identified, but no positive identification has been made for remains believed to be those of Kenneth Abbott, 65.
“In the case herein, there has been no proof that Kenneth Abbott was murdered or is even deceased,” defense attorney Wendy L. Williams wrote in a recent court filing.
Prosecutors maintain in criminal filings that there's evidence — physical and anecdotal — to show that Kenneth Abbott, 65, is dead, and they are awaiting DNA tests.
“You have circumstantial evidence in a burn pile where Celeste Abbott's remains have been identified,” Butler County Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Simon said during Colin Abbott's preliminary hearing in September.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Attorneys involved in the case are under a gag order, and have repeatedly refused to discuss the investigation. Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger wasn't available on Friday.
No date has been scheduled for Abbott's trial.
Thomas King III, attorney for Kathleen F. Neal, Kenneth Abbott's sister and trustee of the Abbott estate, last month asked a Butler County judge to declare him dead. A hearing is set for October in Orphan's Court.
“There has been no evidence of a voluntary disappearance by Kenneth Abbott,” King wrote. “No known trips or vacations were planned, and there is no known evidence of Kenneth Abbott voluntarily leaving his wife and residence behind.”
The last anyone heard from either of the Abbotts, police said, was on June 6, 2011. Several days later, Colin Abbott told his family that his parents died in a fiery car crash in New Jersey, investigators said.
Williams wrote in a court filing that the crash story only shows that Colin Abbott either made up the story or was provided inaccurate information by someone else, not that he committed murder.
King noted in his filing before Orphan's Court that Colin Abbott was the main beneficiary of his father's estate, and took money to pay debts shortly after his father's disappearance.
Authorities allege Colin Abbott was embroiled in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Among the items that prove Kenneth Abbott is dead, according to King's filing:
• A root and tooth, recovered from burn piles on the property are consistent with Kenneth Abbott's dental records.
• Two wedding bands recovered from the burn pile matched the size and appearance of those worn by Kenneth And Celeste Abbott.
• Investigators found Rockport shoe grommets and Harley-Davidson jean rivets, which matched Kenneth Abbott's clothing, in a burn pile.
• Ballistic materials recovered at the estate match the pistol recovered at Colin Abbott's Randolph, N.J., home. Prosecutors said they believe the weapon was used to kill Celeste Abbott.
“The totality of the evidence shows that Kenneth Abbott was placed in specific peril of death at or about the same time as his wife was killed, and that he should be declared dead,” King wrote.
He added that investigators are still looking for Kenneth Abbott.
Remnants of clothing from popular stores aren't enough to be linked to Kenneth Abbott, Williams said. “Second, this evidence fails to show that Kenneth Abbott is deceased,” she wrote in a court filing on Friday.
Beaver County District Attorney Anthony J. Berosh, who is not involved in the case, said prosecutors don't need a body to prosecute a homicide.
“It's not a prerequisite,” Berosh said. “I would be the first to admit that it's difficult, but it can be done.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.