Mother of fugitive guard fears for his safety

She says her son 'didn't have a bad bone in his body'

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The mother of a fugitive charged with killing a fellow armed security guard in a $2.3 million heist said Friday that the allegations against her son are out of character and she is concerned for his safety.

"We just hope every time the phone rings that it's him or that he has been found," Renee Konias said of her son, Kenneth John Konias Jr., 22.

Mr. Konias is being sought by law enforcement agencies nationwide in the Tuesday slaying of 31-year-old Michael Haines with whom he operated an armored truck for Garda Cash Logistics.

Mrs. Konias said she struggled to reconcile her picture of her son as a popular and mild-mannered young man with the one investigators painted of him as a cold-blooded killer. The FBI on Friday issued a wanted poster describing him as a "violent fugitive" who is dangerous and believed to be armed with at least two semi-automatic pistols, including his partner's 9 mm Glock service weapon.

"That just was not Ken," she said. "He never had a problem with anybody. He didn't have a bad bone in his body. I couldn't have asked for a better kid. The stuff they are saying is crazy."

She was stunned to learn Tuesday that police were seeking her son, an only child who lived with his parents in Dravosburg, for questioning about his partner's death, especially because he had never mentioned Mr. Haines or any strife on the job, she said.

Fellow Garda employees discovered Mr. Haines, of East McKeesport, dead of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head inside the armored truck, which had been parked under the 31st Street Bridge in the Strip District, about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. Police said Mr. Konias vanished about two hours earlier. Also gone was the money. The men had spent the day collecting cash from several locations.

Mrs. Konias said she was at work all day Tuesday and had only spoken to her son briefly when she went to wake him before work. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to her then, nor did it later Tuesday, when police searched their home and recovered her son's uniform jacket, which they described as blood-spattered. Mr. Konias had called his mother about the time Mr. Haines' body was discovered, asking to speak to his father, but when she and a coworker tried to call him back their calls went unanswered, according to police accounts.

"I'm just hoping he's safe," she said. "We just want to find him because it doesn't make sense."

Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said Friday that detectives do not believe Mr. Konias has left the country and were checking tips and reported sightings that were increasing as the case gained national attention. They were also continuing interviews with those who may have interacted with him in the past.

"It looks like he may have discussed some plans to do some type of robbery," the commander said. "He may have discussed stealing some money," Cmdr. Stangrecki added, though he would not say in whom Mr. Konias confided or when. "He had talked about coming into a windfall."

He said detectives do not have information that Mr. Haines was complicit in the robbery but were investigating whether there was "any friction between the two. ... We're still looking at every aspect of this."

Mrs. Konias said the idea that her son would steal any amount of money was baffling because "Ken didn't need any money. He lived comfortably. He was spoiled."

His mother said she was unaware that her son was investigated by Kennedy police last month after lottery tickets went missing from a grocery store where he had made his rounds for work. After Garda employees discovered them in the back of their truck, police said Mr. Konias returned the tickets to the store, saying they had gotten stuck on the bottom of his bag. He was not charged.

Mrs. Konias said her son had a solid work ethic that included stints as a volunteer firefighter in Dravosburg and Duquesne, where officials said he was dismissed from the job. His mother said he left on his own after the pressures from his other jobs became too time-consuming. She would not divulge his work history but said it included jobs in emergency services and security, as Mr. Konias had admiration for law enforcement and had wanted to wear a badge since he was a child because "he liked to help people."

When he applied to be a security guard through Garda, he was instead offered a position as a "driver-messenger" on the armored car, which he held for about a year. Mr. Haines was employed by the company just a few months, and their partners changed from time to time, police have said.

Mr. Konias underwent "psychological tests" to wear the Garda badge and gun, his mother said. He also passed a background check, as court records showed he had only traffic and motor vehicle violations in his past. He would often work long hours for the company and help his colleagues in other ways, his mother added.

"He loved his job," she said.

Garda has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture and conviction. Mrs. Konias said she feared the reward would elicit dubious tips.

"Even his friends would turn on him for that kind of money," she said, doubtful of what police described as phone calls Mr. Konias made to friends as he fled inquiring about extradition laws in Canada and Mexico.

Police said witnesses told them Mr. Konias admitted in the phone calls to killing a man and said he had enough money never to work again. He ditched the cell phone on Route 51, where it was discovered by a passer-by.

"We want to make sure he is safe because no one knows what happened. Nobody knows anything," Mrs. Konias said. "I wish I knew."

Sadie Gurman: or 412-263-1878. First Published March 3, 2012 5:00 AM


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