Abbott sentenced to decades in prison in Butler County killings of father, stepmother

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The former New Jersey landscaper who pleaded no contest to killing his father and stepmother, whose remains were found scattered on their Butler County property, was sentenced today to 35 to 80 years in prison.

Colin Abbott, 42, wept as his attorney, Wendy Williams, told Judge William Shaffer he could not speak on his own behalf during the sentencing hearing at the Butler County Courthouse.

"He is unable to speak for himself today because of the regret he feels for the situation and what he has put his family through," she said.

Attorney talks about Butler County double murder case

Colin Abbott pleaded no contest to killing his father and stepmother on their Butler County property and was sentenced to 35 to 80 years in prison. His attorney, Wendy Williams, discusses the case. (Video by Molly Born; 2/27/2013)

Mr. Abbott pleaded no contest Tuesday to two counts of third-degree murder, and by doing so, avoided a lengthy trial and the possibility of being sentenced to the death penalty.

Mr. Abbott spoke only to address the judge's direct questions.

Police said Mr. Abbott killed his father and stepmother, Kenneth and Celeste Abbott, whose charred remains were found on their land in Brady after they went missing in June 2011.

Family members were unavailable or did not wish to speak to reporters immediately after the sentencing.

Prosecutors said afterwards that they weighed the options and considered the penalty essentially a life sentence.

"In my mind, we got justice for the family," said district attorney Richard Goldinger. "We got this guy off the streets for the rest of his life."

Before the sentencing, Eileen Whiting delivered a victim impact statement to the judge. She said she last talked to her sister, Celeste, on June 5, 2011.

"I didn't know it was the last time I would be able to talk to her," Ms. Whiting said.

In an elaborate ploy, Mr. Abbott told relatives his father and stepmother died in a fiery car crash in New Jersey.

As details emerged, Ms. Whiting said, the family suffered further upon learning the deaths weren't an accident.

"Our family was destroyed all over again," she said.

Attorney Thomas King provided a statement on behalf of Kenneth Abbott's family, in which he noted that the successful businessman enjoyed working on his farm and loved Slippery Rock.

The couple's deaths will affect their families for the rest of their lives, he told the judge.

"The impact is immeasurable and permanent," Mr. King said.

Ms. Williams said her client took the plea because he didn't want to put his mother and stepsisters through the ordeal of a trial.

Because of that, she declined to discuss "what actually occurred" but did say the deaths were not premeditated.

"That would truly make him a monster and that's not Colin Abbott in his heart," she said. "His regret is very genuine and his feelings for his family -- his sorrow for his family and his stepsisters -- is very real," she said.

Celeste Abbott's sister Judy Ward, 62, of Albion, N.Y. didn't attend the sentencing. Reached later by phone, she said she was disappointed the case closed with the plea Tuesday.

"It's too bad it didn't go to trial because all the little details would probably come out," she said. "It's still unsettling. No one knows why someone would hurt my sister."

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. First Published February 27, 2013 5:00 AM


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