Abbott estate's auctions begin in Butler County
Kathleen Neal watched quietly on Saturday as, piece by piece, an auctioneer sold off items from her slain brother's Brady estate.
Floor jacks, lawn tractors, many tools, auctioneer John Huey chanted the bids and spectators raised them with a nod or a wave of a numbered card — all occurring near where prosecutors say Colin Abbott shot his father and stepmother and burned their remains in a crime that stunned the Butler County community with its seeming callousness.
Some people went to the auction for a chance to see inside the gated rural property, which armed security guards and surveillance cameras have protected since soon after police found the scattered remains of Ken and Celeste Abbott on July 5, 2011.
“I've read about what happened over here,” said Tom Mekis, 75, of Clearfield, who went with his wife, Sue, 62, to see the estate. “I kinda was interested in what the place looked like.”
But others in the crowd of more than 350 went for a chance to pick up equipment, spending anywhere from a few dollars for a wrench to hundreds of dollars for a riding tractor, items that Ken Abbott, a retired pharmaceutical executive, had gathered over several decades and stockpiled at the sprawling, 25-acre estate with his fourth wife.
“(Ken) worked his whole life for this,” said Neal, 63, of Marshall, Va., the trustee of her brother's estate. “It shouldn't have been taken away.”
The auction took place in a field more than 100 yards from the main house.
Guards kept people from wandering past yellow caution tape that cordoned off most of the West Liberty Road property, where the Abbotts raised several horses and other farm animals. Those who hoped to see inside the house or look at the drained pond where some remains of the couple were found were left disappointed.
Of the curiosity seekers, Neal's husband, Gary, 72, said: “We just have to accept it. A lot of people have those kind of interests. It's sad, but it's a reality.”
The auction was the first of as many as eight as the Abbott family settles the estate. It featured several riding tractors, trailers, lawn equipment and a wide variety of tools, some brand-new.
On Thursday, Butler County Judge S. Michael Yeager denied a motion from Colin Abbott to stop the auctions, estate attorney Tom King said.
Abbott is trying to withdraw the no-contest plea he made in February to third-degree murder charges in the deaths of his father and stepmother. He is serving a prison sentence of 35 to 80 years.
He has appealed to Pennsylvania Superior Court because he now wants the case to go to trial.
The last day anyone heard from Ken and Celeste Abbott was June 6, 2011. Several days later, Colin Abbott told his family that the couple had died in a fiery car crash in New Jersey, investigators said, but police there had no record of any such accident. Family members asked state police in Butler County to check on the Abbotts, and they discovered the remains on July 13, 2011.
Ken Abbott's will leaves the bulk of his estate, estimated at $4 million, to Colin Abbott, though prosecutors question the validity of that document because it was changed a month before the couple disappeared. Prosecutors maintain that Colin Abbott killed Ken and Celeste Abbott because he wanted his father's money to wipe out mounting debts.
Prosecutors say Colin Abbott's attempt to withdraw his plea is a ploy to generate publicity so his mother, a murder-mystery publisher, can get a book deal. Deborah Buchanan of Rockaway, N.J., has denied that.
Yeager ruled that auction proceeds will be held in escrow while Colin Abbott's appeal proceeds. King is seeking to bar him from profiting in any way from his father's estate. Yeager is expected to rule in July.
The next auction, scheduled for June 28, will include restored vehicles, motorcycles and boats.
“It's just stuff,” said Ken's brother Norm Abbott, 61, of Cherry, Butler County, as items sold on Saturday. “It's Ken's stuff. There's no emotional attachment.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Butler Township commissioners to consider new zoning regulations on gas well pads
- Low turnout expected in Butler County despite crowded primary ballot
- VA move to pay for appeal chastised
- Slippery Rock library gains money match to replace undersized home
- Death of woman found near hospital not thought suspicious