Defense in Connellsville murder case fights plan to seek death penalty
Defense attorneys claim prosecutors have no evidence that a Connellsville woman was conscious or even alive when two men sexually assaulted her and then beat her, as police have charged.
Fayette County prosecutors have filed notice they will ask for the death penalty if they convict Craig Rugg, 25, of Connellsville and Paul Bannasch, 24, of Uniontown of first-degree murder in the June 22 slaying of Margaret “Peggy Sue” Kriek, 52.
Rugg's attorneys, Dianne Zerega of Uniontown and James Geibig of Greensburg, have filed motions seeking to prevent prosecutors from arguing that Kriek was tortured — an aggravating circumstance prosecutors will seek to prove as justification to impose the death sentence.
The two suspects are charged with criminal homicide, kidnapping, aggravated indecent assault and other charges. Witnesses said Bannasch, Rugg and Kriek were drinking in a Connellsville bar and later were seen near the Amtrak station in the city, according to court documents.
Police allege that the suspects beat Kriek, strangled her and dumped her body into the Youghiogheny River.
She had blunt-force trauma injuries, a rib fracture, a broken neck and cuts and scrapes on her heels, legs, torso and arms, police said.
In addition, the two defense attorneys want a judge to dismiss the case in its entirety. Absent a dismissal, they want Rugg to be tried separately in another county.
The defense team is seeking to keep the prosecution from presenting at trial some evidence and statements. Zerega and Geibig argue that an autopsy report gives no indication Kriek was alive when she was allegedly sexually assaulted and beaten.
“There is no indication in the autopsy report that the victim was alive or deceased at the time the injuries occurred,” the attorneys said in two motions.
They argued statements the two men gave to police indicate Kriek was either unconscious or deceased when most of the injuries were inflicted.
If the case goes to trial, Rugg's attorneys want it to be heard in another county because they contend media coverage in Fayette and surrounding counties would prevent a fair, impartial trial.
They want the case to be tried separately from Bannasch's because Bannasch has made statements against Rugg and “the two defendants will have different and possibly inconsistent defenses,” according to one motion.
The attorneys want to dismiss as evidence Rugg's statements to police because Rugg “was under the influence of controlled substances” when he spoke to the officers, they wrote in one motion.
They argue that police had no probable cause to gather blood evidence and DNA samples from Rugg.
A hearing has not been scheduled on the two motions.
Bannasch's defense team is seeking to block some statements and evidence from being presented at trial. That hearing is scheduled for May 19.
Both men are in the Fayette County Prison without bond.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or email@example.com.
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.
- Geibel seniors land lead roles
- Rabies clinic for dogs, cats set for Saturday in Uniontown
- St. Rita of Cascia Roman Catholic Church marks centennial in Connellsville
- New Horizon 4-H member says showmanship, bonding key to showing lambs
- Western Pa. nonprofits roll dice on casino company grants
- Fayette County motorist accused of firing shots when good Samaritans stop at crash scene
- Carnegie Free Library plans Big Book Sale
- Creepy, kooky cast bringing ‘The Addams Family’ to Connellsville Area stage
- Fayette tourism ambassadors sought
- ‘Change to Change Lives’ campaign under way in Connellsville
- Connellsville Area Garden Club seeks design input for park upgrade