Family of murdered Connellsville woman grieves loss
Barbara Ritenour said she will never forget the last words she heard from her daughter, spoken just hours before she was beaten, sexually assaulted, murdered and tossed into the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County.
“Her last words to me were, ‘Hi, Mom, I love you. I will see you later,'” said Ritenour, 74, on Monday at her home in Connellsville, where friends and family gathered to remember Margaret “Peggy Sue” Kriek, 52.
“I'm going to miss her,” Ritenour said as she wiped tears from her eyes and clutched photographs of Kriek and her six siblings. “I'm going to miss her coming up and cleaning my house. I'm going to miss hugging her.”
Boy Scouts discovered Kriek's nude body floating in the Youghiogheny River in Dunbar Township on Saturday morning. State police at Uniontown have charged two 24-year-old men with homicide — Paul Jerome Bannasch of South Union and Craig Allen Rugg of Connellsville.
Police said witnesses saw the three drinking at Sidewinders bar on North Water Street in Connellsville at 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to a criminal complaint. At 12:19 a.m. Saturday, the three were seen walking in the area of the nearby Amtrak station.
Bannasch, police said, asked bar patrons who were in Sidewinders' parking lot if they knew where Kriek lived.
“The patrons offered to alert bar security about where Kriek lived,” said Trooper Nathaniel Lieberum in the complaint. “Bannasch told the patrons to not advise the bar security and stated that if they saw him on any (fliers) or on a wanted sign, to say that they didn't see him or didn't know him.”
Police found some of Kriek's clothing in a field near the Amtrak station. Drag marks and blood splatter, according to the complaint, led to the Yough River, where more of Kriek's clothing was found on the bank.
An autopsy report lists cause of death as strangulation before Kriek's body was placed in the river.
She had blunt-force trauma injuries to her head and body, a rib fracture, a broken neck bone and lacerations and abrasions to her heels, legs, torso and arms, according to the criminal complaint.
At the time of Kriek's death, Bannasch and Rugg were on parole in unrelated cases, according to court records.
Rugg was paroled in March after serving part of a 6- to 23-month sentence for indecent assault. Police said he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman in August 2011 in Menallen. More serious charges, including rape, were withdrawn as part of a plea bargain.
Bannasch was serving sentences in two separate cases until he was paroled in May, records show. The charges in those cases included an August 2012 incident in which state police said he beat a pregnant woman and tried to throw her out of a second-story window as she held on to a 1-year-old boy at a North Union apartment.
At Ritenour's house on Monday, one of Kriek's sisters, Barbara Leonard, 48, of Connellsville pointed out that Bannasch on Saturday morning posted a Facebook photo of himself that depicts several large abrasions on his lower back.
In the caption above the photo, Bannasch attributed the abrasions to “hoping (sic) trains,” but Leonard speculates the injuries occurred when her sister was forced to fight back.
“Those boys didn't have to do that,” Leonard said. “She would have given them anything they wanted.”
Leonard said she wants anyone who saw her sister and the men at Sidewinders or in the lot near the Amtrak station to contact police.
“They watched them take her out,” Leonard said, noting witnesses have advised her family that Kriek did not leave the bar willingly with the two men. “There are people down there who should come forward.”
No one at Sidewinders could be reached for comment on Monday. A telephone listing for the bar was not in service, and the door was locked.
In a Facebook posting to the Trib Total Media website, a woman who described herself as one of the bar's owners, Jenny Emerick, said Kriek was at the bar but left before the two men were “made to leave the bar for harassing other patrons.”
Emerick, who in the Facebook posting offered condolences to Kriek's family, could not be reached by phone.
Kriek, who was the mother of two children, had five grandchildren, Ritenour said. In addition, she cared for her 5-year-old nephew, Franky, and 12-year-old niece, Catherine, said Leonard.
“I have seven kids, and they are all so precious to me,” Ritenour said. “Peggy was wonderful. She didn't deserve what they did to her.”
Ritenour said she believes the two suspects will eventually answer to God for their alleged actions.
“They are not just going to face a judge,” Ritenour said. “They are going to face God almighty, and God says, in His own words, vengeance is mine.”
In addition to homicide, Bannasch and Rugg are charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful restraint and abuse of a corpse. They are being held in the Fayette County jail without bond.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.