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Colin Abbott sentenced to 35 to 80 years in killing of father, stepmother

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 11:06 a.m.
Colin Abbott, charged in the killing of his father, Kenneth Abbott, and stepmother, Celeste

Colin Abbott had no words to explain why he killed his father and stepmother and burned their bodies on their sprawling Butler County estate nearly two years ago.

“He is heartbroken for them, and he is unable to speak for himself due to his regret for the situation and what he has put his family through, especially his mother and stepsisters,” defense attorney Wendy Williams said on Wednesday as Abbott, 42, of Randolph, N.J., wept beside her. “He doesn't feel he could get through any statement or any apology.”

Butler County Judge William Shaffer sentenced Abbott to 35 to 80 years in prison for his no-contest plea to two counts of third-degree murder, days before his death-penalty murder trial was to begin. Shaffer said Abbott's punishment was “tantamount to a life sentence.”

Neither Williams nor Abbott discussed details of the killings at the home in Brady. Williams said only that Abbott did not plan to kill Kenneth Abbott, 65, and Celeste Abbott, 55.

Prosecutors contended Colin Abbott killed the couple to hide thefts of large amounts of money and make himself the estate's primary heir.

“Frankly, I don't care if he admits he intended to do it or not,” District Attorney Richard Goldinger said after sentencing. “We got our conviction. We got our life sentence out of him, so the family can move forward.”

Also a consideration, Goldinger said, is the hundreds of thousands of dollars a trial and appeals would cost taxpayers. He said his office offered a plea deal about a month ago, and Williams said the sides had negotiated since.

“We had a mountain of evidence against him, and we were very confident we would have gained convictions on two counts of first-degree murder,” Goldinger said.

Abbott told his family that his father and stepmother died in a traffic crash in New Jersey in early June 2011, according to court documents.

Eileen Whiting told Shaffer that the shock of thinking her sister, Celeste Abbott, perished in a traffic accident was emotionally draining, but the shock a month later that the Abbotts were slain was almost too much.

“Our family was devastated all over again,” said Whiting of Albion, N.Y. “An accident is an act of God. What happened is not.”

On July 13, 2011, Pennsylvania State Police found burned remains on the estate. Within days, paperwork emerged from Kenneth Abbott's safety deposit box with changes to his 2010 will that made Colin Abbott its sole beneficiary.

Because of the slayings, the Abbotts' estates, estimated at more than $4 million, have not been settled.

Attorney Thomas King, representing Kenneth Abbott's siblings, said he soon would file paperwork under the state's Slayer Act to ensure Colin Abbott cannot profit from the killings.

Williams said Abbott was upset about money spent to administer the Abbott estate. Court records show that between July 2011 and September 2012, legal fees, security for the estate, utilities and related costs were nearly $700,000.

Ronald Elliott, an attorney with King's law firm, said Kathleen Neal, Kenneth Abbott's sister, “is doing an excellent job administering the assets and estate. I think Colin Abbott has bigger things to worry about than how the estate is being administered.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5621or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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