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Expert: Tattoos, weight gain may be killing suspect Konias' way to look tough

| Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, 10:19 p.m.
Ken Konias in custody in April 2012.
Ken Konias in custody in April 2012.

Forensic psychologists say jailhouse tattoos and weight gain may mean that a Dravosburg man accused of killing his armored-car partner realizes he'll likely spend his life in prison.

“I've seen before where people try to lift weights, get a radical haircut, tattoos, carve things into their skin ... anything to make themselves look tough,” said David DeMatteo, director of the forensic psychology program at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “I supposed there's a lot of reasons why an alleged offender might do that.”

Kenneth Konias Jr., 23, is charged with homicide for the Feb. 28, 2012, shooting death of Michael Haines, 31, of East McKeesport. Police say Konias shot Haines in the back of the head and then fled with $2.3 million to Florida, where authorities arrested him eight weeks later.

Konias shaved his head recently and has gained weight, said his attorney, Charles LoPresti Jr. His right hand has tattoos of money bags and dollar signs on both sides.

LoPresti said he doesn't have photos of Konias' tattoos, and the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office would not provide them.

“Any time people are in jail, rightly or wrongly, for that period of time, there are changes people go through,” LoPresti said. “I'm not saying ‘boo hoo' for him, but he's had significant weight gain, scabs on his head and medical maladies, and as an attorney I say, ‘Wait, something's wrong here.' ”

Initially, jail officials confined Konias to a single cell for 23 hours a day. Still awaiting trial, he is housed in a less-isolated area but remains alone for most of the day, LoPresti said.

Common Pleas Judge David Cashman this month delayed Konias' trial until Nov. 6, at his attorney's request, so that LoPresti can have experts review evidence, including the clothes Haines wore when shot. A forensic psychologist will evaluate why Konias would tattoo himself or allow another inmate to do so.

His actions while awaiting trial “certainly raise alarms to warrant further investigations,” said Eric Bernstein, a forensic psychologist with offices in Station Square and Butler.

Bernstein said a psychologist likely would need to talk with Konias several times, though he couldn't predict how long the sessions might take.

Inmates in the Allegheny County Jail often get tattoos by poking the skin with a sharp object dipped in ink from a pen, officials said.

In state prisons, some prisoners have utilized more sophisticated means to tattoo, by modifying the moving parts of a tape deck or CD player, attaching a needle and using ink from a pen, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan Bensinger.

In county and state systems, inmates who get tattoos are punished with solitary confinement.

Inmates in the Allegheny County Jail eat about 2,900 calories a day. A typical breakfast, such as that served on Friday, might be Cream of Wheat, scrambled eggs with cheese, pan-fried potatoes and onions, and coffee. Lunch might be a hot dog, potatoes and cole slaw, followed by a dinner of ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans and a tossed salad.

Inmates have access to a commissary where they can buy things such as candy bars, canned tuna and peanut butter.

LoPresti didn't know what Konias weighed when arrested in April 2012, but he estimated his client has gained 30 to 40 pounds in the past 14 months.

Psychologists said the analysis LoPresti requested could become part of defense tactics — depending on the findings, it could be a factor that would impact the jury's perception of his guilt or innocence — although LoPresti said it won't be part of his defense strategy.

“The reason I want the evaluation is because I have to know he's ready, willing and able to assist me” with his trial, LoPresti said.

DeMatteo said tattoos could be Konias' attempt to taunt prosecutors. Cult leader and convicted serial killer Charles Manson, he recalled, showed up to his 1970 trial with an “X” carved into his forehead. Manson later modified it into a swastika. A California jury convicted Manson in 1971 of conspiracy to commit several murders that his followers carried out.

“It's probably bad timing for him to (get) those tattoos,” DeMatteo said of Konias. “But we're dealing with people who often lack good judgment.”

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

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