Arrest made in beating deaths of mother, son in Arnold

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Police said DNA tests led them to the arrest of a suspect in the beating deaths of a mother and her adult son five-and-a-half months ago in Arnold.

Robert E. Briestensky Jr., 39, of Brackenridge was charged Wednesday with two counts of criminal homicide in the Sept. 28 deaths of Bonnie Lee Broadwater, 46, and her son, Lance A. Holt, 24.

The decomposing bodies of Broadwater and Holt were found at their home in the 1500 block of Third Avenue around 11:30 p.m. Oct. 4.

Both died from blunt force trauma to the head and face resulting in multiple skull fractures, said Cyril Wecht, who performed the autopsies. The deaths were ruled homicides.

Police learned through their investigation that a man named "Bobby" owed Broadwater about $700 for prescription drugs, and she was upset that he had not repaid her.

On Oct. 6, police first interviewed Mr. Briestensky and collected a DNA swab.

From the crime scene, police submitted a wooden baseball bat, ball cap and jacket to the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Laboratory for analysis. The items appeared to have blood on them, police said.

The lab report came back about a week and a half ago, Arnold police Chief William Weber said, at which point the district attorney reviewed the case.

The analysis showed a connection between Mr. Briestensky's DNA and that found on the baseball bat, ball cap and jacket, police said. DNA on the grip of the baseball bat was also connected to Broadwater and Holt, police said.

Mr. Briestensky was arraigned Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. He is being held in the Westmoreland County prison, awaiting a March 21 preliminary hearing.

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Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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