Lesko death warrant signed; execution not likely to happen soon
Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday signed a death warrant for convicted cop killer John Lesko, who has faced the threat of execution since he was sentenced in 1981 for the "kill for thrill" spree that left four people dead.
Lesko is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 9.
The brother of one victim, Robert Nicholls of Hempfield, says it's time for Lesko and co-defendant Michael Travaglia to die.
"Yes, yes, yes," Nicholls said yesterday. "They've kept these damn guys alive for 30 years. It was senseless. Senseless."
William Nicholls was kidnapped, tortured, weighed down with rocks and thrown alive into the freezing waters of an Indiana County lake before he was fatally shot on Jan. 2, 1980.
Judge Terrence F. McVerry appointed an attorney to represent the 52-year-old former Homestead resident, who has filed a federal appeal. McVerry declined to issue a stay until Corbett signed a death warrant.
Attorney Samuel J.B. Angell of the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia told McVerry that a "death warrant is imminent" because the state appeals courts refused to hear any further arguments.
Angell said he wants to avoid the process leading up to Lesko's execution once a warrant is signed.
He said a psychiatrist will interview Lesko and officials will arrange for the disposal of his body. He will be fitted for a special jumpsuit to wear to his execution. Medical personnel will examine his veins to determine whether they can withstand a long-gauge needle used to inject the deadly chemicals into his body.
"A stay should be issued now so that (Lesko) is not needlessly subjected to these procedures," Angell wrote.
William Nicholls, who worked as a church organist, grew up in Irwin and moved to Mt. Lebanon after he graduated from St. Vincent College.
The murder spree began two days after Christmas 1979 when Lesko and Travaglia abducted Peter Levato of Pittsburgh and killed him near the Loyalhanna Dam. The pair killed Marlene Sue Newcomer on New Year's Eve after she gave them a ride.
Next, they killed Nicholls. The stolen car they were driving was stopped by Apollo Police Officer Leonard Miller; he was gunned down as Miller approached the car.
Robert Nicholls last saw his brother at Christmas 1979, just days before he was murdered.
"We always got together on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts," he recalled. "He was the life of the party. He always had something funny to say."
Robert Nicholls said his brother's murder has haunted him for 30 years.
"My dad lived through this and died. My mother lived through this and died. I'm 57 and had to live my whole life thinking about it."
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.
- Man snatches purse behind mall
- Contract with prison counselors ratified
- Ex-Milwaukee archbishop told he can’t spend final days at St. Vincent Archabbey
- Hookah bar on tap for Greensburg
- Greensburg pawn shop aids in arrest of home repair scam suspect
- PennDOT to stabilize rock slide along Penn Adamsburg Road in Hempfield
- 3 identified in Route 66 crash near Delmont
- Greensburg man charged with assaulting hospital guard
- Penn Township sues to get blighted property cleaned
- Baggaley school principal seeks volunteers to build playground
- State grant to aid Excela plans for orthopedic center in Hempfield