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West Deer man gets 25 to 50 years in prison for killing parents

- James W. Yeckel, confessed to killing his parents.
James W. Yeckel, confessed to killing his parents.
- James and Carol Yeckel of West Deer were found murdered in their home in September 2011.
James and Carol Yeckel of West Deer were found murdered in their home in September 2011.

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Monday, May 6, 2013, 12:48 p.m.
 

In the weeks before James Yeckel fatally shot his mother and father inside their West Deer home, Carol Yeckel became increasingly frightened by her son's odd behavior.

He mixed all his food with ketchup in a bowl and then ate it like an animal. He slept in a chair or on the floor in the basement, and when he watched TV, he turned the volume all the way down.

He claimed he could communicate with animals.

On Sept. 8, 2011, Yeckel, 54, shot his mother, Carol, and father, James Sr., both 74, inside their home on West Starz Road. He pled guilty but mentally ill on Monday to two counts of third-degree murder. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos sentenced him to 25 to 50 years in prison.

“I would just like to apologize to the family. I'm sorry,” Yeckel said as a half-dozen family members in the courtroom wept.

Yeckel, wearing red pants and a white T-shirt, cried briefly.

Chris Patarini, Yeckel's attorney, said his client was diagnosed in 1994 with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“This was an unfortunate incident at a time when he was not taking his medication,” Patarini said.

“I wish he would have accepted the help offered to him many times throughout the years,” said his sister-in-law, Jane Yeckel, 51, of Baldwin Borough. “This would have never happened.”

Family members told police that Yeckel would disappear for years at a time and then return to his parents' home.

Deborah Rees told police her brother had been living in his parents' house for an unknown length of time when they returned home from Salt Springs, Fla., on April 15, 2011.

Yeckel and his mother argued two months later, so he packed his belongings and left, Rees told police.

He returned in August 2011, and Carol Yeckel told Rees she worried about her son's chain-smoking and constant Pepsi-drinking.

About 1 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2011, Yeckel told Rees she was cooking spaghetti and planning to serve dinner by 3 p.m. so that she could go to her cousin's viewing in Carrick by 6 p.m. Rees arrived at the funeral home about 7 p.m., but her parents were not there.

She called them several times over the next two days but got no answer.

Police said two neighbors discovered the bodies in the house, shot multiple times with a shotgun. The food was still on the stove.

Investigators couldn't match DNA on a spent shotgun shell to Yeckel using conventional analysis because the shell contained DNA from at least three people.

Forensic scientists used a statistical analysis to show that Yeckel was one of the people who handled the shell.

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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