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Prosecution rests in Arnold double murder trial

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, April 16, 2018, 5:30 p.m.
Robert Briestensky
Westmoreland County Jail
Robert Briestensky
Robert Briestensky of Brackenridge, accused of the October, 2012 murders of Bonnie Lee Broadwater and her adult son, Lance Holt, in Arnold.
Westmoreland County Jail
Robert Briestensky of Brackenridge, accused of the October, 2012 murders of Bonnie Lee Broadwater and her adult son, Lance Holt, in Arnold.

The Allegheny County man accused of killing an Arnold mother and her son nearly five years ago told detectives he left his baseball cap in the victim's car months before the murders, a detective testified Monday.

Westmoreland County Detective Tony Marcocci told jurors Robert Briestensky recanted his original denial about owning the baseball cap which contained blood of Bonnie Broadwater and Lance Holt at the scene of their murder.

The admission came as investigators searched Briestensky's home in Brackenridge, three weeks after the bodies of Broadwater, 46, and Holt, 24, were found in their Third Avenue house in Arnold on Oct. 4, 2012.

Marcocci testified Briestensky claimed Broadwater picked him up from work in July and drove them to her house, where they spent time drinking alcohol. She then drove him home, Marcocci said.

“He said he wore the baseball cap at that time and when she drove him home the hat came off in her car,” Marcocci testified.

Briestensky claimed he had forgotten about the hat when he first spoke with investigators the day after the bodies of Broadwater and Holt were discovered.

Marcocci was the last of 12 witnesses to testify for the prosecution during the first five days of the trial. The prosecution rested its case against Briestensky Monday afternoon.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani said the defense is expected to present witnesses, which could include Briestensky, when the trial reconvenes Tuesday morning.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck contends Briestensky, 44, brutally beat his victims to death using a wooden blood-soaked baseball bat found in the home. Witnesses testified last week that Briestensky's DNA was found on the suspected murder weapon, as well as a ball cap and denim jacket found at the scene.

Retired county Detective Robert Weaver and former Detective Terry Kuhns, who now serves as Frazer Township police chief, said during questioning by investigators Oct. 6, 2012, that Briestensky denied owning the ball cap and jacket.

Briestensky also denied having any animus toward Broadwater but admitted that she previously gave him painkillers, sometimes several times a week, Kuhns testified. Briestensky claimed he did not owe Broadwater money for those pills, Kuhns told jurors.

The prosecution has said the bodies were discovered about a week after the murders.

Leo Fitch, a supervisor at a New Kensington medical fabrication shop, testified he last saw Holt at work Sept. 28, 2012, and expected him to show up the next day for an overtime shift at the plant.

“He told me he would be there Saturday morning,” Fitch testified. “He never showed up.”

James Matta, director of the New Kensington Municipal Authority, told jurors that meter readings from Broadwater's home showed regular water usage there until Sept. 28. The only water used at the home beginning the day after was just one cup, the same as would usually be seen because of a leaky faucet or toilet, Matta said.

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

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