Jury finds Pittsburgh man did not intend to kill boy

3rd-degree murder conviction given

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The prosecutor stood in front of the jury box, took a splintered 2 x 2 and swung it with the force of a baseball bat.

She held up a long metal bar and a brown leather belt.

All of them were used by Anthony Bush to kill the 11-year-old son of his live-in girlfriend over a period of many hours Feb. 11, 2012.

The man admits to beating the boy, allegedly to discipline him. But the defense argued to the jury hearing his case that Mr. Bush should not be found guilty of murder because he was himself so severely abused as a child that he was cognitively impaired and could not form the required intent to kill for first-degree murder.

The jury agreed. Mr. Bush was found guilty of third-degree murder and will be sentenced by Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel on April 23.

Mr. Bush, 30, was left to care for 11-year-old Donovan McKee and his 5-year-old brother that day in their Rochelle Towers apartment in Knoxville while his girlfriend, Cynthia McKee, went to work.

According to investigators, Mr. Bush beat Donovan throughout the day, opening a gaping wound on his arm and cutting the child's head.

The man called Ms. McKee at work about 8:50 p.m. asking her where she kept needle and thread and telling her to come home.

When she did, she found Donovan's cold, motionless body on a couch. His wounds had been crudely stitched.

She waited one hour and 40 minutes before calling 911. Donovan died early the next morning.

Ms. McKee -- who said she, too, had been abused by Mr. Bush -- pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and did not testify against him.

During her closing, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini mocked the defense argument that Mr. Bush didn't have the capacity to understand what he was doing.

"Don't tell me -- he was bruised down to his little feet -- you don't know you're killing this child," Ms. Pellegrini said, showing the jurors picture after picture of Donovan's battered body.

Ms. Pellegrini characterized Mr. Bush, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, as a bully.

"Bullies pick on someone weak," she said. "They beat their girlfriends. They beat their wives, and they beat their children."

Defense attorney Lisa Middleman conceded from the outset Mr. Bush killed Donovan.

"This is the killer," she said during her closing argument. "I'm sorry to say that. He's not a monster. He committed a monstrous act. He's an extraordinarily damaged human being."

She described 20 years of abuse her client suffered, not having any family to support him and a mother who was disgusted by him because he is albino and has trouble seeing.

"He had nobody. He had nothing," she said. "He had nothing that allowed him to be nurtured ... that would allow his brain to function normally."

Ms. Middleman said her client is mentally ill -- including depression and psychosis -- that led him to be suicidal once he was in custody.

"The only person who disagrees Mr. Bush is mentally ill is the person the commonwealth paid to say that," she said.

A psychiatrist called to testify as an expert for the prosecution said he believed Mr. Bush had the capacity to form the intent to kill the day Donovan was beaten.

But another expert called by the defense disagreed, saying he was cognitively impaired and could not form intent.

"How do you know how to treat a child?" Ms. Middleman said. "It's based on what you see. He didn't get but a fourth-grade education.

"Is this a person who knew to be interested in child development? Or did he do what he knew?"

But Ms. Pellegrini told the jury she believed Mr. Bush had a plan that day.

"I submit to you, he woke up in a rage, and he was going to beat that child, and he didn't care," she said. "His actions were deliberate and premeditated."

To Ms. Middleman's argument that Mr. Bush didn't mean to kill Donovan, the prosecutor asked, "When you use a stick ... what do you think is going to happen?"

Donovan, she said, suffered a lifetime of abuse.

"Until I started to work on this case, I didn't realize monsters were real," Ms. Pellegrini told the jury. "Donovan lived every day in that apartment with a monster."


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published February 6, 2013 5:00 AM


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