Judge rules statements of defendant in Arnold double killing are admissible
Statements an Allegheny County man gave to police days after a mother and son were found pummeled to death in their Arnold home can be used during his double murder trial, a Westmoreland County judge ruled on Tuesday.
Detectives said Robert Briestensky gave a series of statements in which he denied, then later admitted that clothing found at the murder scene belonged to him.
Briestensky, 40, of Brackenridge is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bonnie Broadwater, 46, and her son, Lance Holt, 24.
Their bodies were discovered on Oct. 4, 2012, about five days after police said they were beaten to death with an object, possibly a baseball bat. Autopsy reports indicated both died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
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.
Witnesses indicated that Broadwater told them Briestensky owed her “hundreds of dollars” for illegal drugs, prosecutors previously said.
Westmoreland County Detective Robert Weaver testified on Tuesday that two days after the bodies were discovered, Briestensky denied that a baseball cap and denim jacket found at the victims' house belonged to him.
Three weeks later, Briestensky recanted and told police the ball cap was his.
Detective Tony Marcocci testified Briestensky claimed he left the cap in Broadwater's car when she drove him home about a week before the murders.
“Bonnie called him and said her dog got hold of the cap, and if he didn't come and get it soon, Bonnie would let the dog keep it,” Marcocci testified.
Both detectives said Briestensky was not in custody and was not under arrest when he gave the statements. Both conceded they did not inform him of his constitutional rights against self-incrimination before asking him questions about the case.
Defense attorney Greg Cecchetti said Briestensky's statements should be barred from evidence.
“They believed he was a suspect in a double homicide they were investigating,” Cecchetti said.
District Attorney John Peck argued the statements were legally obtained because Briestensky was not in police custody.
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever where this court could remotely consider Mr. Briestensky was in custody,” McCormick ruled.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- Derry man gets 19-year prison sentence for recording sex assaults of girl
- Girl, 10, forced to strip in Sewickley Township home invasion
- Music on way to Westmoreland’s Twin Lakes Park
- Convicted home invader from Monessen wants new lawyer
- Southmoreland School director named
- Contract talks progress in Derry
- Kecksburg celebrates its UFO history with annual festival
- Westmoreland torture-slaying convict Smyrnes says death row isolation too cruel
- Extremes in weather hurt crops in Westmoreland
- Greensburg YMCA seeks soccer sites for fall
- Police: Scottdale man had child porn on computer