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.