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Love triangle considered in slaying of Seneca Valley High School teacher

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 12:34 a.m.
WPXI
Seneca Valley High school teacher Steven Russo

A man who committed suicide last month by blowing himself up had been a suspect in the murder of a popular Seneca Valley High School teacher, according to court documents and investigators.

The documents, recently unsealed, name Richard Laszczynski, 46, of Hampton as a suspect in the killing of Steven Russo, 48, who was found shot to death in his home in Lancaster, Butler County, on Nov. 24, 2010.

State police and Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said they're not ready to declare the case solved and closed with Laszczynski's death.

“Evidence points to a certain suspect at this point, but we're not ruling anyone out,” Goldinger said.

State police laid out a case against Laszczynski when submitting an affidavit for a search warrant. State police wrote that probable cause exists to identify Laszczynski as being responsible for Russo's death.

Investigators were awaiting the result of one more forensic test to decide whether they had enough evidence to file charges, Goldinger said Thursday.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner ruled Laszczynski's death on June 27 a suicide from a self-inflicted blast to his head and neck with a homemade explosive device.

Attempts to reach Laszczynski's family for comment were not successful.

State police submitted an affidavit on May 9, 2011, for the search warrant. They asked that it be placed under seal because the investigation was ongoing.

State police on Thursday confirmed an electronic copy of the affidavit obtained by the Tribune-Review.

The thread linking Russo and Laszczynski was Heidi Smith, who dated Laszczynski for several months while she dated and lived with Russo, the documents stated.

“It was pretty obvious when you looked at all of this, from day one, we knew it wasn't someone off the street, it would be either an ex-husband or a jealous boyfriend,” said Jayme Russo, 49, of Butler Township, Russo's brother.

“We're not getting Steve back,” he said. “I don't know if you get any closure. (Laszczynski) is deceased, and you move on. We know there wasn't any random suspect other than this guy.”

Russo was shot to death one day after a break-in at the home.

According to the affidavit, signed by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Ed Borkowski, Troopers Randolph Guy and John Stepansky said they believe that Laszczynski staged a burglary at the home on Nov. 23, 2010, and then returned the next day and shot Russo to death.

Troopers wrote that Laszczynski and Russo had been dating Smith at the same time. Smith, realizing Laszczynski was jealous, broke up with him on Nov. 14, 2010.

She could not be reached for comment.

“Laszczynski was emotionally distraught over the breakup and became angry,” troopers wrote. “He sent Smith a text message which stated, ‘You destroyed me.'”

Investigators don't believe that Smith was involved in the killing, Goldinger said.

Evidence showed that Laszczynski accessed Russo's calendar page through the Seneca Valley School District website, and video surveillance footage from the Log Cabin Inn near the Russo home showed a man who Smith said resembled Laszczynski walking toward Russo's house the day of the burglary and the day of the murder.

Court records showed that Laszczynski served time in federal prison for robbing the Warrendale post office in 1994. More recently, he was awaiting trial in Allegheny County Court on assault charges filed by Hampton police.

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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