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Laskowski gets 8 to 20 years for Bishop murder

| Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The teen who admitted to aiding in the brutal 2002 hammer slaying of Adam Bishop was sentenced to eight to 20 years in prison Monday while a judge and parents of the victim argued his role in the killing.

Robert Laskowski, 17, of Hempfield Township's Wendover section, helped Adam's brother, Ian Bishop, to commit the April 19, 2002, killing, in which at least 18 blows were struck to Adam's head.

Laskowski pleaded guilty earlier this year to third-degree murder and criminal conspiracy. His general plea allowed Westmoreland County Judge Debra A. Pezze to choose the sentence.

Laskowski declined his opportunity to speak before he was sentenced.

Ian Bishop, 16, was found guilty at trial last year of administering the vicious beating after school in the family's home near Bovard, Hempfield Township. Jurors found that Ian, 14 at the time, beat his brother with a claw hammer and club before dragging him down a hallway and leaving him to die in a bathtub.

Laskowski, who was then 15, admitted to police that he helped carry Adam's body into the bathroom and did not attempt to stop the killing.

The parents of the Bishop boys -- Adam, who died at 18, and Ian, who is serving 20 to 40 years imprisonment for his brother's death -- maintained that Laskowski had a far bigger role in the killings than he told police.

That belief made for an anxious hearing before Pezze, who argued openly with Jeffrey and Karen Bishop.

"The actions of Robert Laskowski on that day sentenced us to a lifetime without Adam and an inordinate amount of time without Ian," said Jeffrey Bishop.

When Jeffrey Bishop discussed other details of the case that he said showed Ian didn't kill Adam, Pezze disagreed.

"A jury of 12 people say you are wrong," Pezze said.

Karen Bishop advanced the idea that Adam may have brought on the attack.

"Adam was violent toward the end," Karen Bishop said during her statement.

"It is offensive that you have put on Adam this whole scenario," Pezze said, interrupting Karen Bishop. "I suggest that you read (Ian's psychological) report and what your son said. Ian told me he hated his brother."

Speaking to a prosecutor, Pezze took further exception to the Bishops' statements.

"We are bound by objectivity. They are entitled to their emotions, and that is how it should be ... whatever psychological devices help them survive this ... good for them," Pezze said.

Jeffrey and Karen Bishop contended the cases of both Laskowski and Ian Bishop should have been handled in juvenile court -- a move that Pezze denied last year. If the cases had been handled there, the two teens would have been held or treated only until they turned 21.

"They were children. They don't need to be punished. They need to be helped," Karen Bishop said.

Pezze disagreed.

"The depth of depravity and cruelty required to commit a crime like that, there is nothing child-like about that," the judge said.

Laskowski's defense attorney, Lee Demosky, told Pezze that his client cooperated with police from the beginning.

"I would submit that this is someone who can be saved," he said.

His parents, Matthew and Susan Laskowski, declined to speak with reporters.

The Bishops did not.

"I have no respect for her (Pezze) whatsoever. I just lost both of my children, and she has the gall to smirk at me and not let me say what I want to say. I don't know how she can be judge," said Karen Bishop, who left the sentencing halfway through. She had asked Pezze to give Laskowski a sentence equal to Ian's.

Jeffrey Bishop said the judge failed to take into account other evidence that shows his son was not the only one who hit Adam.

While both defendants are sentenced, Jeffrey Bishop said he holds out hope that Ian's case could be heard again.

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