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July trial set for Latrobe man accused of killing roommate in 2008

Rich Cholodofsky
| Saturday, April 28, 2012, 6:30 a.m.

The trial of a Latrobe man accused in the strangulation death of his roommate last year will begin July 6.

That trial date was set yesterday during a brief hearing before Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway, who earlier this week released a 19-page opinion in which she ruled that police acted appropriately when they searched and later questioned Jay Jones Baird about the death of 43-year-old Bradley Holnaider.

Baird, 28, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Holnaider on Jan. 21, 2008, at the Ligonier Street apartment they briefly shared.

According to investigators, Baird initially denied any involvement in Holnaider's death, but police arrested him after searching him and finding drugs in his pocket.

Baird than gave several detailed statements in which he confessed to killing Holnaider, police said.

Defense attorney John Sweeney claimed those confessions should be barred from evidence because they resulted from an illegal search by police and coercion during the subsequent interrogation.

Hathaway found that police were within their rights to search Baird when they questioned him at his apartment Jan. 22 and that investigators acted appropriately during six hours of questioning.

"Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the defendant's statements and ultimate confession were voluntary and are admissible," Hathaway wrote.

Police said Baird initially denied any involvement in Holnaider's death but changed his story after he was told that he failed a voice-stress analysis test, a type of polygraph.

Baird then gave a detailed, 26-minute, videotaped confession in which he described how he killed Holnaider.

In that confession, Baird told police he threw Holnaider to the ground and kicked him, then tied him to a chair and strangled him. Baird said he then left to go to work at a metals plant.

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