A New Jersey landscaper pleaded no contest in the deaths of his father and stepmother, whose charred, dismembered remains were found scattered on their rural Butler County property in 2011.
Colin William Abbott, 42, of Randolph, N.J., pleaded no contest to two counts of third-degree murder Tuesday in Butler County court and will be sentenced today.
With that plea, he avoids the death penalty but faces between 35 and 80 years in prison in the killing of pharmaceutical executive Kenneth Abbott, 65, and Celeste Abbott, 55. At least eight to 10 of Mrs. Abbott's friends and family members plan to attend the sentencing, said her sister, Judy Ward, 61, of Albion, N.Y.
"I don't think anyone was expecting this to happen this way," she said. "We were expecting a trial."
Colin Abbott was arrested July 14, 2011, a day after police discovered the couple's remains in Brady, near Slippery Rock.
The younger Mr. Abbott misled relatives -- telling them the couple died in a fiery car crash in New Jersey -- in an attempt to inherit the bulk of their multimillion dollar estate, authorities have said. When Mrs. Abbott's daughter came to their house to collect her late mother's belongings, Mr. Abbott told her the family's possessions belonged to him, including his late father's 25-acre parcel.
After a family member asked about a death certificate for insurance purposes, Mr. Abbott became evasive, police said. A relative then called New Jersey State Police to ask about the remains, and they determined there was no record of any such accident or deaths. That summer, relatives claimed Mr. Abbott tried to access money in his father's accounts immediately after his death, and in August of that year, relatives successfully petitioned the court to ensure Mr. Abbott could not access the money.
Mrs. Abbott had previously helped her husband and his son reconcile differences, Ms. Ward said. "Not only was she my sister, but she was my best friend. There wasn't anyone she wouldn't have helped and never did she deserve something like this."mobilehome - breaking - neigh_north
Molly Born: email@example.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. First Published February 26, 2013 3:45 PM