Fayette DA seeks death penalty in beating death
Two men accused in the brutal homicide of a Fayette County woman may be sentenced to death if they are convicted of first-degree homicide.
District Attorney Jack Heneks on Thursday filed notice of his intent to seek the death penalty against Craig Allen Rugg, 24, of Connellsville and Paul Jerome Bannasch, 24, of Uniontown.
State police contend the men beat Margaret “Peggy Sue” Kriek, 52, in a gravel parking lot at the Amtrak station on Water Street in Connellsville shortly after midnight on June 22. They dragged her across railroad tracks and put her body into the Youghiogheny River, police said.
Heneks cited the aggravating circumstances of torture and that the killing was committed during the perpetration of other felonies. Those other crimes, according to the notice, are kidnapping, aggravated indecent assault and related offenses.
Through his public defender, Bannasch entered a plea of not guilty to criminal homicide and the other charges. Rugg did not enter a plea. His arraignment was postponed because his court-appointed attorney, Dianne Zerega, was unavailable to attend the hearing.
The two men declined to comment on Thursday as they were led, handcuffed and in leg shackles, from Judge Nancy Vernon's courtroom.
Heneks declined to comment after the hearings.
“Our notice and our intent speaks for itself,” Heneks said.
During the pair's preliminary hearings in July, prosecutors played a recorded statement they said Rugg gave to state police. In the statement, Rugg said he and Bannasch “really had no purpose” for kicking Kriek until she stopped breathing and dumping her body in the river.
In the statement, Rugg told police they dragged Kriek through the gravel lot and over railroad tracks to the riverbank, where they kicked and punched her until her lifeless body fell into the river.
On the recording, Rugg said he and Bannasch began drinking at 7:30 p.m. on June 21, starting with a case of beer at a friend's house and moving on to several bars in Connellsville before they stopped at Sidewinder's on Water Street. He said the two talked with Kriek about “sexual stuff,” then all three went outside, where they continued the discussion.
Rugg said he became angry when Kriek told him she was “no longer interested” in being with the men.
“It aggravated me,” Rugg said on the recording. “I turned around and punched her in the face.”
The blow sent Kriek to the ground, but she got up. Rugg said he told Kriek he “wasn't putting up with this,” and she yelled as someone approached on a walkway.
“I smacked her in the mouth, and she went down,” Rugg said. “I believe she was knocked out at that point.”
Rugg said he and Bannasch “came to the conclusion” they could not leave Kriek in the lot. He said she was still breathing when they dragged her across several sets of railroad tracks to the riverbank, laid her down and “booted her over the hill” sending her tumbling toward the river.
Rugg said both men kicked the victim several times, and when they realized she wasn't breathing, they fled.
Bannasch told the trooper that after the attack, the two men went drinking at another bar and stopped at McDonald's in Connellsville for a meal.
A Boy Scout troop discovered Kriek's body in the middle of the Youghiogheny River at 10 a.m. June 22 near Adelaide Road in Dunbar Township, Trooper Nathaniel Lieberum testified at the hearing.
An autopsy performed by forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht found the cause of death to be asphyxiation from manual strangulation. In addition, Kriek had blunt-force trauma injuries to her face and body, two broken ribs and numerous lacerations and bruises.
Rugg and Bannasch are being held without bond in the Fayette County Prison.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Connellsville gets spring scouring
- Connellsville-region grads to converge for Golden Reunion
- Allegheny Valley board candidates hold Colfax Elementary fate
- Veterans charity to receive funds
- Henry: Job and education fair slated for Wednesday in Connellsville
- Man in critical condition after Manchester shooting
- Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame inductees share lessons of athletics
- Braddock man charged in fatal stabbing
- Boy, 15, charged with firing shots in Brighton Heights
- Drainage problems believed root of Ridge Road collapse in Harmar
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’