Killer in Butler County case may have wanted to trigger book deal
A killer's attempt to withdraw his plea in a double murder may have been a ploy to generate publicity so his mother, a murder-mystery publisher, could get a book deal about him, jailhouse recordings released on Thursday show.
Butler County prosecutors gave a recording of March 6 phone calls between Colin Abbott and his biological mother, Deborah Buchanan, to a judge during a hearing on Thursday on Abbott's request to withdraw his no-contest plea to killing his father and stepmother. They played them for media afterward.
“To start the ball rolling, why don't you just email (defense at-torneys) and say, ‘My son wants to pull his plea,' and let's just see what chaos it starts,” Abbott said in the recording, which Butler County Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Simon said was made in the Butler County Prison. “(An attorney) will come over here and say, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?' and I'll say I want to pull my plea.”
Buchanan of Rockaway, N.J., said she couldn't remember what was said in the jailhouse conversations with her son.
She confirmed she's seeking a book or movie deal about the case.
The retired accountant, 64, said she is the owner of Deadly Ink Press, which focuses on murder mysteries. She said that if she couldn't find a publisher for her planned book about the case, she'd publish it on her own.
In the recording, Abbott told Buchanan, “The end result is, even if I end up upstate, it's a publicity start in the right direction for you. Possibly for a book, possibly for other things. I just want you to get your money back, that's all I'm trying to say.”
Buchanan said she helped pay for her son's defense but that she didn't know how much.
At one point, his mother said, “Let's just go for it.”
The two refer to “the West Coast guy,” who could represent them.
On March 19, the Tribune-Review received an email from Larry Garrison, president of Calif.-based SilverCreek Entertainment, who said he was representing Buchanan and working on a book and movie deal.
The day of the calls, Buchanan emailed defense attorney Wendy Williams, chief public defender Kevin Flaherty, Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger and Judge William Shaffer, saying that her son wanted to withdraw his plea, according to an email contained in a court filing.
By March 11, Abbott, 43, of Rutherford, N.J., filed a court motion saying he was pressured by his defense team and the court into pleading no contest Feb. 26 to third-degree murder in the killings. Shaffer sentenced him less than 24 hours later to between 35 and 80 years in state prison.
Shaffer didn't rule on Abbott's request to withdraw his plea, but he granted defense attorney Williams' motion to withdraw from the case.
With the plea, Abbott accepted prosecutors' allegations that he shot Kenneth and Celeste Abbott on their sprawling Brady estate on July 13, 2011, and burned their remains. Prosecutors said Abbott, who could have received the death penalty, wanted to inherit his father's estate and hide thefts of large amounts of money from his father.
Buchanan said she and her son haven't discussed details of Kenneth and Celeste Abbott's killings, including her son's false claim that they died in a traffic accident, because of the court proceedings, but she believes her son did not kill the couple.
Simon said the recordings show Abbott should not be allowed to withdraw his plea.
Abbott told Shaffer that if he had more time between the plea and sentence, “There's no way we would be here today,” and he would have instead gone to trial on the murder charges.
Simon countered that there was no “manifest injustice” in Abbott's plea or sentence.
Williams said she's confident she handled the case properly and that the end result “was the best outcome for Colin Abbott.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.