Konias guilty in Pittsburgh armored-truck killing case

It appeared that Ken Konias had no discernible plan for escape.

He didn't have a car ready to go. He didn't buy plane tickets to get out of town quickly. He didn't even have his bags packed.

But none of that mattered to Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, who on Tuesday found Mr. Konias guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder in the killing of co-worker Michael Haines in an armored truck.

"This wasn't something that was ...," the judge said, snapping his fingers, "instantaneous. This was a process that was going on for quite a while.

"There's only one possible verdict."

Mr. Konias will be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of life without parole Feb. 18.

Mr. Konias' defense attorney, Charles LoPresti, said after the verdict that his client was likely "enormously disappointed.

"It appears the court bought every bit of the commonwealth's case."

The verdict was reached following a six-day nonjury trial.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Schupansky argued to Judge Cashman during closing arguments Tuesday that Mr. Konias' crime was driven by selfishness.

"This defendant was not happy with who he was. He didn't want to be Ken Konias. He wanted to be a millionaire."

Mr. Schupansky said Mr. Konias, who worked on a Garda armored truck, decided the morning of Feb. 28, 2012, to steal the money from the truck, and he shot Haines to make that happen.

Police said Mr. Konias fired the single shot into the back of Haines' head while the armored truck was parked in the parking lot at Home Depot in Ross. Mr. Konias then drove the truck to the Strip District, where he abandoned it under the 31st Street Bridge.

He picked up his own vehicle at the Garda offices, returned to the armored truck, stole $2.3 million in cash and fled.

Mr. Konias first went home and showered, leaving his Garda jacket -- with the shell casing from the bullet he fired in the pocket. Mr. Konias went to his grandmother's grave and left money there, then went to his friend's home and left money there.

He then fled to Florida, where Mr. Konias spent nearly the next two months spending money on drugs and prostitutes.

"His idea of mourning Michael Haines was spending money on a Rolex watch, on call girls and at strip clubs," Mr. Schupansky said. "That's what this was about. It was about the money, and Michael Haines, unfortunately, was in the way."

The defense tried to claim self-defense, saying that Mr. Konias and Haines got into a scuffle in the truck after Haines became frustrated when a scanner used on the truck to check in bags of money malfunctioned.

Mr. Konias told FBI agents who interviewed him that Haines threw the scanner at his head, and the men then had a scuffle.

When Mr. Konias shoved Haines, the defendant claimed, Haines pulled his service weapon. Mr. Konias said he kicked Haines' gun from his hand, pulled his own weapon and fired a shot at his partner.

Haines was shot in the back of the head from between 3 and 12 inches away, according to testimony in the trial.

Judge Cashman questioned how the scanner ended up secured back in its cradle.

"It doesn't bounce off your head and get lodged in the charger, and that's where it was found," the judge said.

Mr. LoPresti tried to argue during his closing that his client was not guilty of premeditated murder and that Mr. Konias was a "scared kid" who only stole the money as an afterthought because he didn't think anyone would believe his self-defense claim.

Mr. Konias had no plan of escape, Mr. LoPresti said.

"What evidence is there to support a premeditated killing with malice?" he asked. "All of these facts are inconsistent with a predetermined plan to execute a man and execute an armed robbery."

Mr. LoPresti accused investigators of reaching their conclusion long before hearing his client's side of the story.

"Finding evidence to support the conclusion was easier than doing the painstaking forensic analysis," he said. "They didn't even try. They had their man. It was over."

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published November 19, 2013 10:52 AM

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