Even after Elsie Kost confessed to shooting her husband and stuffing his body in a cistern on their property, investigators weren't convinced they had the whole story.
How, they wondered, did the 60-year-old woman manage to wrestle Edward Kost's body uphill by herself and then into the cistern?
Now they believe they know: It was a family affair.
On Thursday night, police charged the Kosts' daughter, Melissa, 25, of Rochester, with killing her father outside his New Sewickley home in November.
A police affidavit supporting Melissa Kost's arrest identified her boyfriend, James Nicgorski, and her sister, Jennifer Daugherty, as the people who helped Melissa "clean up the mess and put Edward Kost's body in the cistern," all at Elsie Kost's direction.
Neither Nicgorski nor Daugherty has been charged with any crime.
Beaver County District Attorney Dale Fouse and New Sewickley Police Chief John Daley said yesterday that efforts were made to conceal the truth and alter the crime scene, but they declined to be more specific.
Fouse has not dropped charges against Elsie Kost, and he indicated there might be more arrests in connection with the case. Elsie Kost entered a not guilty plea in February.
Elsie Kost's attorney, James Ross, declined to address why Kost would cover up for her daughter. But Melissa Kost's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said she was acting like a "typical mother."
Thomassey said Melissa Kost reluctantly let her mother take the fall for her.
"Finally, Melissa ... came to see me," Thomassey said.
That was about a month ago, around the time that Elsie Kost told New Sewickley police about her daughters' alleged involvement in her husband's death, the affidavit said.
Thomassey described the slaying as a "justifiable shooting" following years of abuse by Edward Kost. Thomassey said Kost was a violent drunkard who beat his wife of 39 years and at least one of their children. In 1990, Elsie Kost was granted a protection-from-abuse order.
On Nov. 21, Elsie Kost was charged with killing her husband after she went to the New Sewickley police and confessed. She was accompanied by Melissa at the time.
Later that day, police searched the 28-acre family property on Cycle Drive and found Edward Kost down a cistern, about three feet below ground level, lying on a bed of garbage.
They also confiscated four handguns, including a .357-caliber Magnum with one spent round -- the gun used to kill Kost. He died from a single gunshot wound of the head.
Police said Elsie Kost told them the killing occurred Nov. 16. Early that evening, Edward Kost grew upset because Melissa and Jennifer were not doing housework, according to the original affidavit against Elsie Kost.
She told police that her husband retrieved a handgun from the den and threatened the daughters' pets to teach them a lesson. After an argument, Edward Kost put the gun on the kitchen table and walked outside. Then, she said, she picked up the gun, followed her husband and shot him in the back, according to the affidavit.
Afterward, Elsie Kost put the body in a wheelbarrow and dumped the corpse in the cistern.
What authorities consider to be the true sequence of events is outlined in the affidavit against Melissa Kost. It states that on Feb. 25, Elsie Kost told New Sewickley police she had argued with her husband, who walked outside, followed by Melissa Kost.
"Elsie stated that she heard a pop and Melissa walked back into the house with a gun in her hand," the affidavit said. "Elsie stated that Melissa then called her other daughter, Jennifer Daugherty and had her come up to the house.
" ... she told Melissa, Jennifer, and James Nicgorski to clean up the mess and put Edward Kost's body in the cistern."
The document states Nicgorski and Daugherty confirmed Elsie Kost's story on March 24.
On the day of Kost's death, the family had been preparing for a birthday party for one of his grandchildren, Thomassey said. Kost, though, came home drunk and belligerent. Thomassey said Kost warned his relatives that "anybody who comes here tonight is getting shot."
A fight ensued between Elsie and Edward Kost.
"Then the gun comes out. Melissa tries to intervene ... they had taken the gun off of him. He was outside and heading to the truck to get another gun." Then, Thomassey said, his client pulled the trigger.
Melissa Kost was arraigned and taken to the Beaver County Jail. Elsie Kost, now 61, remains free on a $40,000 property bond.
Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962.