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Slaying suspect's lawyer alleges police tampered with gun suspected in shootings

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Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A lawyer for a former Butler County man accused of killing his father and stepmother raised questions about whether police tampered with evidence and improperly searched his home.

During a court appearance on Friday before Butler County Common Pleas Judge William Shaffer, Wendy Williams argued that there is no evidence linking a gun police took from Colin Abbott's New Jersey home with the gun used in the killings.

Abbott, 41, faces first-degree murder and related charges for the deaths of Kenneth and Celeste Abbott. Police found their dismembered and burned remains on their multimillion-dollar estate in Brady on July 13, 2011.

Abbott faces the death penalty.

Investigators said they found a bullet in Kenneth and Celeste Abbott's home that was fired by a gun owned by Colin Abbott.

Williams, however, argued that the firearm found in her client's home in New Jersey was loaded with three bullets, and that police in Pennsylvania later said the gun contained only two bullets.

“It's our contention that the third bullet from the gun was fired after it was brought back from New Jersey,” Williams said.

Williams questioned state Trooper Chris Birckbichler for nearly 90 minutes about the procedures followed in the investigation to try establishing inconsistencies in the officer's statements.

Birckbichler testified at a preliminary hearing in September 2011 that the gun confiscated from Colin Abbott's home contained only two bullets.

“I was either told incorrectly, heard it incorrectly or wrote it down incorrectly,” Berkbichler testified on Friday.

The trooper said he listened to tape recordings of telephone calls that Abbott made while in the Butler County Prison in which he spoke about the firearm and the number of bullets it contained.

Williams questioned Abbott and one of his neighbors from New Jersey to try showing that police searched his home on the night of the slayings before they obtained a search warrant.

Shaffer did not issue a ruling on Friday about whether the evidence should be allowed at trial.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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