Share This Page

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

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 12:48 p.m.
James W. Yeckel, confessed to killing his parents.
James and Carol Yeckel of West Deer were found murdered in their home in September 2011.

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.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.