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Judge refuses to let killer withdraw plea in Butler County case

| Friday, April 12, 2013, 6:03 p.m.
Colin Abbott, charged in the killing of his father, Kenneth Abbott, and stepmother, Celeste

A Butler County judge on Friday rejected a New Jersey man's attempt to withdraw his no-contest plea in the killing of his parents on their Brady estate in 2011.

Colin Abbott did not prove that “manifest injustice” existed to allow the plea withdrawal, Judge William Shaffer wrote, adding that it's easier to withdraw a plea before sentencing.

Shaffer on Feb. 27 sentenced Abbott to between 35 and 80 years in prison, less than 24 hours after Abbott entered the no-contest plea to third-degree murder for the slayings of Kenneth and Celeste Abbott. Prosecutors said Colin Abbott, 42, of Randolph, N.J., killed the couple to cover thefts of huge sums of money and to make himself the primary heir of the estate. He then burned their bodies and scattered their remains.

Abbott claimed in an appeal that his attorney, Wendy Williams, and court officials, including the District Attorney's Office and Public Defender's Office, pressured him into the deal.

Abbott denied accusations by prosecutors that he was attempting to withdraw the plea to drum up interest in a book or movie deal. Williams has withdrawn from the case.

Chief Public Defender Kevin Flaherty said his office would file paperwork to preserve Abbott's right to appeal Shaffer's decision to Superior Court. Shaffer wrote that Abbott has 30 days to appeal, and that Flaherty could represent him.

Abbott could file a motion asking for another attorney if he thinks there is a conflict with the public defender's office.

“It was very much in his best interests to enter the plea,” Flaherty said. “I thought the sentence was fair.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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