Lawyer in Arnold murders says he'll have to step down if comments are allowed
The attorney for an Allegheny County man charged with killing a mother and son in their Arnold home last year said in court on Tuesday that incriminating statements made by witnesses should be excluded from his double murder trial.
During a brief court hearing, Public Defender Greg Cecchetti said statements that two witnesses gave to police are inadmissible because they originated from a declaration made by one victim before her death.
Robert E. Briestensky, 39, of Brackenridge is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bonnie Broadwater, 46, and her son, Lance Holt, 24.
Police contend Broadwater and Holt were pummeled to death with an object, possibly a baseball bat. Autopsy reports indicated both died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
They had been dead about five days before their bodies were found in the family home on Oct. 4, police said.
DNA in a baseball cap and a jacket found at the scene linked Briestensky to the murders, police contend. The items were covered with both victims' blood, according to court documents.
District Attorney John Peck said police have statements from two witnesses who claimed Broadwater told them Briestensky owed her “hundreds of dollars” for illegal drugs.
The defense contends those statements are hearsay and therefore inadmissible.
“Those statements appear to be inadmissible,” Judge Debra Pezze said.
She deferred ruling on the defense motion to allow Peck time to review and make arguments should he try to use that evidence at trial.
The prosecution has not decided to use those statements, which Peck said Tuesday would give Briestensky a motive for the killings.
“My initial impression is that they are hearsay, but we'll have to look at it,” Peck said.
If the statements are allowed at trial, Cecchetti said he will have to withdraw from representing Briestensky.
The public defender's office previously has represented the two witnesses in unrelated cases, Cecchetti said.
Briestensky's trial was delayed until at least October.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293.
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.
- Delmont man blogs about industrial history of region, exploring long-cold coke ovens
- PennDOT has to complete acquisition of 4 parcels, take down trees for New Stanton interchange on I-70
- Bids expected for demolition of Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette
- Greensburg YMCA plans to restore front porch to 1913 look
- Youngwood officials to submit drawings to state agency that orders playground work stoppage
- Man’s body found in car in Forbes State Forest
- Latrobe police seek driver of red cargo van
- Former Ligonier Township supervisor’s case heads to trial
- Westmoreland register of wills plans to retire
- Ex-Latrobe day care operator seeks to withdraw guilty plea
- Geyer Performing Arts Center hosts AAFC production of ‘Murder on the Nile’