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Abbott's appeal of no-contest plea to Butler killings could lead to big payoff

| Sunday, July 7, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
A few of the eighteen cars up for auction at the Abbott Estate on June 29, 2013. The cars ranged in models from 1975- 2013.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
A security guard stands guard during the Abbott Estate auction on June 29, 2013. The property has been protected by armed security guards and surveillance cameras since soon after police found the scattered remains of Ken and Celeste Abbott on July 5, 2011.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Ted Wallace, of Mt. Washington, bids on a boat at the Abbott Estate auction on June 29, 2013. The auction had eighteen cars, eleven motorcycles, four boats, and two trailers.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Tom Ujazdowski of Gibsonia, views cars at the Abbott Estate auction on June 29, 2013. The auction offered eighteen cars, ranging from 1975- 2013.

A Butler County man in prison for killing his father and stepmother shouldn't be shut out of any inheritance while he appeals his no-contest plea and decades-long sentence, his attorney said.

Attorneys representing the estate of Ken and Celeste Abbott, and Ken's son, Colin Abbott, will square off July 18 in Butler County Court over whether Colin Abbott falls under the state's Slayer's Act, which would bar him from inheriting any of his father's estate, valued at more than $4 million.

The Brady couple was shot to death in June 2011. Colin Abbott pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in February and was sentenced to from 35 to 80 years in prison. He is now seeking to withdraw that plea and go to trial.

The Pennsylvania Slayer's Act says that a killer can't benefit from the crime.

In the county's orphans' court division, attorney Ronald T. Elliott, who represents the estate, wrote in a court filing that it's not relevant that Abbott entered a no-contest plea.

A no-contest plea is not a guilty plea, but instead means that a defendant accepts the information filed against him or her by prosecutors.

“It is clear that the record of conviction in this case establishes that there is not a dispute of material fact and that Colin Abbott is a slayer as a matter of law under the Pennsylvania Slayer's Act,” Elliott wrote.

Colin Abbott's attorney, H. Craig Hinkle, argued in papers filed June 28 that it's too soon to label Abbott a slayer and deem him ineligible for his father's estate, because his plea and sentence could be overturned.

“Actions regarding the Slayer's Act should be stayed until the outcome of Colin Abbott's current appeal is determined,” Hinkle wrote.

Hinkle added that a no-contest plea isn't admissible as evidence in a civil court proceeding.

Last month, auctioneers sold off cars, motorcycles, boats, tools, lawn tractors and other equipment to settle the estate. Another auction of furniture, exercise equipment and other items was held Saturday. An auction of die-cast cars and other collectibles will be held Aug. 24.

Court records did not indicate how much money has been raised so far in the auctions. Any proceeds will remain in a trust while Colin Abbott's appeal continues.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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