Kenneth Konias sat silently in the courtroom Tuesday morning while six people read statements about how numerous lives had changed since he fatally shot his partner in an armored truck and fled with $2.3 million.
But by the time Common Pleas Judge David Cashman of Allegheny County began his remarks handing down a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole, the 24-year-old killer had hit his limit.
After sitting through six days of testimony and examining 221 exhibits, the judge said, "it became absolutely clear that Michael Haines is a dead man," the moment he stepped inside the Garda Cash Logistics truck he rode in with Konias on Feb. 28, 2012.
Judge Cashman had just finished saying Konias "planned this assassination for several months" when Konias, who moments before declined his opportunity to speak, interrupted.
"Your honor, may I?"
"No, I gave you your opportunity."
"I was just going to suggest that you would not lecture me and give us my sentence so that we can proceed."
Laughter erupted in the courtroom. The judge continued his remarks.
"The essence of this homicide was greed," he said. "This was a death penalty case."
The family of Michael Haines, who was found shot in the back of the head inside an armored truck parked under a bridge in the Strip District, asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in the case. Judge Cashman called their request an act of mercy.
Public defender Carrie Allman acknowledged that Pennsylvania law required the judge to impose a life sentence. But she also told the judge the killing represented only one action in Konias' life and asked him to "consider not just the snapshot but the photo album of his life."
She said Konias had no prior criminal record and that he came from a loving, supportive family. She also noted that the pscyhiatrist who evaluated Konias said he suffers from anxiety and depression.
Her remarks came after six people read statements outlining how the killing had impacted Haines' relatives, friends and co-workers.
Haines' mother, Ann, and sister, Betsy, held photos of him while Christina French read statements on their behalf.
Betsy's statement recalled a camera-shy brother who, on his only day off from work one November weekend, missed the kickoff of a Steelers game so the two of them could take a photo to give to their parents for the holidays.
His mother wrote: "To us, the impact of Mike's death is incalculable and unmeasurable. Without him, our world is simply not the same. And for all of us, the impact of this tragic and unnecessary act will forever be part of our daily lives."
Haines' cousin and childhood friend, Ryan Unger, said sometimes when he sits at a keyboard and types he freezes, thinking back to the day he and his family learned that a Garda truck had been robbed and someone had been found dead inside.
Two years after the killing, he said, he has yet to drive under the 31st Street Bridge or to go to the Rivers Casino or the Home Depot in Ross, stops Haines made while running his last route before Konias shot him.
"I feel myself go numb every time I see a Garda truck drive by. The reminders are everywhere ... the pain does not go away," he said.
Michael Sainato, who worked at Garda when Haines was killed, said Haines came to him the night before his death and asked if he had to work the next day with Konias, who was not his usual partner. Sainato told him it was too late to change the schedule.
Sainato was working when police discovered Haines' body and watched them remove it from the truck. He struggled to fall asleep that night. When he awoke unexpectedly in the middle of the night, he said, he knew that his wife was lying beside him but instead his brain conjured up the image of Haines' lifeless body.
"There were many sleepless nights."
He left Garda later that year, saying he couldn't stand "to lose anyone that way ever again."
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438. First Published February 18, 2014 11:18 AM