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Westmoreland

Judge demands defense DNA report before Arnold baseball bat double-murder trial

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, April 6, 2018, 4:21 p.m.
Arnold double-murder suspect Robert Briestensky of Brackenridge, center, is led by, from left, Arnold police Officer Ryan Olszewski and Westmoreland County detectives Terry Kuhns and Paul Burkey for his arraignment at District Justice Frank Pallone's office in New Kensington on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Arnold double-murder suspect Robert Briestensky of Brackenridge, center, is led by, from left, Arnold police Officer Ryan Olszewski and Westmoreland County detectives Terry Kuhns and Paul Burkey for his arraignment at District Justice Frank Pallone's office in New Kensington on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.

DNA evidence that could link another person to the murders of an Arnold mother and son could be barred from an upcoming trial, a Westmoreland County judge said Friday.

Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani ruled the defense lawyers for Robert Briestensky have until 4 p.m. Monday to give prosecutors a report detailing an analysis completed of three key pieces of evidence collected in the Arnold home where police said Bonnie Broadwater, 46, and her son, Lance Holt, 24, were killed in October 2012.

After more than five years of delays because of legal wrangling and judicial reassignments caused by illness and the death of a judge, Briestensky finally is slated to go to trial next week. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday

The prosecution contends Briestensky, 44, of Brackenridge, Allegheny County, bludgeoned Broadwater and Holt with a baseball bat. According to court records, DNA found on the bat, a ball cap and a jacket belonged to the victims and to Briestensky, linking him to the killings.

The defense has challenged the DNA findings. Two years ago, it hired an expert to review the DNA found on those items.

That report has yet to be turned over the prosecution.

“There is no explanation for this. I just want to know if there is another shoe to drop or not,” District Attorney John Peck said.

Defense attorney Greg Cecchetti said the defense-hired DNA expert hasn't given him a copy of the report, but he hopes to have it sometime next week. The witness tentatively is scheduled to testify during the trial.

Feliciani said Friday he won't allow the defense expert to testify about any findings on the bat, cap and jacket unless the DNA report is turned over by the deadline. A prosecution expert is expected to testify that Briestensky's DNA was found on those items.

During previous court hearings, the defense contended that fingerprints from a fourth person were found at the murder scene and suggested that another person may be responsible for the killings.

Briestensky's trial is expected to last about a week.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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