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Judge allows slaying confession

| Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fayette County prosecutors will be allowed to use a woman's confession that she allegedly killed a bartender in self-defense as evidence in a murder trial, a judge ruled last week.

Judge Steve P. Leskinen also denied Catherine M. Hamborsky's pretrial motion to dismiss the homicide charge in the Jan. 4, 2005, death of Thomas "Gunner" Lesniak.

Hamborsky, 41, of Upper Tyrone Township, wanted to suppress a half-hour statement she gave state police at Uniontown two days after Lesniak's body was found in his brother's burned Upper Tyrone tavern.

In the interview with police, Hamborsky said she shot and stabbed the 52-year-old Melcroft man with his gun and knife because she feared he wanted to rape her.

The defendant then said she returned to the bar with a gas can and set a fire because "the only thing I could do is to cover it up," according to a transcript of the interview.

Her attorney, Samuel Davis, argued that he was retained by a relative on the afternoon of the interview and he tried to reach Hamborsky while she was at the barracks.

Although Davis implied that alleged police trickery prevented him from speaking with his client until the confession was complete, only Hamborsky had the decision to invoke her right to remain silent, Leskinen said.

"Hamborsky's statements cannot be suppressed because this court finds that she made a valid waiver of her right to remain silent," Leskinen wrote in the opinion, which is dated Thursday.

Davis also disputed the homicide charge, arguing that the prosecution failed to prove there was sufficient independent evidence that Lesniak died by criminal means.

A forensic pathologist said the gunshot wounds would not have been life-threatening.

In testimony in February, Dr. Cyril Wecht said Lesniak died from stress to his enlarged heart after he was shot five times in the back and midsection.

"There is substantial evidence in this case, independent of Hamborsky's statements, that support the conclusion that the victim's death was more likely the result of criminal acts instead of natural causes," Leskinen said.

Hamborsky is free on $50,000 bond and home-electronic monitoring.

Leskinen scheduled a May 12 hearing to determine whether she violated her bond by allegedly testing positive for cocaine last month.

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