Former Brackenridge man pleads guilty to 2012 double murder in Arnold
An Allegheny County man was sentenced Tuesday to serve up to 30 years in prison for the fatal beating of an Arnold woman and her adult son more than six years ago.
Robert Briestensky, 45, formerly of Brackenridge, pleaded guilty to two lesser counts of third-degree murder in connection with the October 2012 slayings of Bonnie Broadwater, 46, and her 24-year-old son, Lance Holt. Prosecutors contend Briestensky used a child’s wooden baseball bat to bludgeon them to death.
His second double-murder trial was scheduled to begin next month. The guilty plea came less than a year after a Westmoreland County jury was unable to reach a verdict following a week-long trial in which prosecutors contended Briestensky intentionally murdered the mother and son over a debt. As a result, Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani declared a mistrial.
District Attorney John Peck said Tuesday he agreed to allow Briestensky plead guilty to lesser charges to ensure a conviction.
“The first jury was 11-to-1 for acquittal. I’d like some justice for that family, and I have no doubt the defendant committed this crime,” Peck said.
Although no family members of Broadwater and Holt appeared in court on Tuesday, Peck said Broadwater’s sister signed off on the plea bargain deal and promised to submit a statement to the court. That statement had not been received in time for the hearing, Peck said.
Broadwater and Holt’s bodies were discovered in their home a week after the fatal beatings, police contended. During Briestensky’s first trial, the prosecution argued that his DNA and fingerprints linked him to the murders. Briestensky’s DNA was found on a ball cap and denim jacket found near the bodies. His fingerprints also were found on a soda can in the home, according to evidence introduced at trial.
The defense argued that an unidentified fourth person’s DNA also was found at the crime scene.
Briestensky said in court on Tuesday that he agreed to the plea bargain because it was in his best interest to do so. He faced mandatory life sentences, without the possibility of parole, if he was convicted of first-degree murder.
Feliciani ordered Briestensky to serve two concurrent sentences of 15-to-30 years in prison and gave him credit for time served since his arrest in March 2013. Briestensky also was ordered to pay more than $37,000 in restitution to pay for costs associated with the criminal investigation and autopsy of his victims.
Briestensky maintained his innocence during the first trial and rejected a proposed deal that called for him to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a 20-to-40-year prison sentence. Now, defense attorney Greg Cecchetti said the time was right for a deal to end the case.
“I think he looked at convictions in cases and considered this offer in his best interest,” Cecchetti said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .