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Attorney: Armstrong woman's confession coerced

Rob Amen
| Friday, March 24, 2006

An Armstrong County woman accused of slicing open her neighbor's abdomen in a failed attempt to steal her unborn child was coerced into confessing, her attorney said Thursday.

Peggy Jo Connor, 38, of Manor, was mistreated by state police who arrested her in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, her attorney, David DeFazio, said during a hearing before Armstrong County Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Valasek.

Connor is scheduled to testify today when the hearing continues.

On Oct. 12, a teenager stumbled upon Connor kneeling beside a bloodied Valerie Oskin, 30, in a wooded area of Wayne, Armstrong County.

Connor pleaded innocent in December to attempted homicide, aggravated assault and aggravated assault of an unborn child.

"She didn't want to make any statements (to police)," DeFazio said. "Nothing was voluntary."

Police questioned Connor for 12 hours, but Trooper Joseph Murphy, one of three state troopers to take the stand yesterday, testified Connor was free to leave anytime.

DeFazio argued the troopers would not let her eat or take breaks from questioning.

The troopers who testified said Connor was given ample bathroom breaks and a soft drink and never asked to leave, eat or sleep.

"She was treated no differently than any other individual," said District Attorney Scott Andreassi.

Two troopers testified Connor twice waived her right to have an attorney present before requesting one.

Trooper Richard Fennell testified he talked with Connor shortly after that request and said Connor told him she wanted to explain her role in the incident. Fennell instructed Connor to sign a document waiving her rights. Her statement was not disclosed in court.

"Many of the statements (appeared) to have been provided to her," DeFazio said.

DeFazio is pursuing an insanity defense. In a previous court filing, he said his client suffers from "severe mental disorders, including but not limited to, psychosis and schizophrenia."

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