ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

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 rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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.

click me