Confession, testimony diverge in Clairton Officer Kuzak case
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Allegheny County homicide detectives had a man suspected of the shooting of a Clairton police officer in custody for more than 10 hours before he made a recording of his confession at 4:30 a.m. on April 9, 2011.
In the 10-minute recording played by prosecutors Thursday in the trial of Marcus Andrejco and Emilio Rivera, Mr. Andrejco apologizes to Officer James Kuzak, who was paralyzed while responding to a home invasion on Miller Avenue in Clairton on April 4, 2011.
"I send my condolences to the fallen officer," Mr. Andrejco said. "I was wrong. I deserve to be punished, I know. Lesson learned."
But parts of the confession from the then-18-year-old don't match up with earlier testimony in the case.
Prosecution witnesses have said Mr. Andrejco was dating a girl who lived in the same duplex as the house that was robbed. The man living in the house that was robbed was a drug dealer, and there has been testimony that Mr. Andrejco would watch him from outside his girlfriend's house.
In his statement, however, Mr. Andrejco said it was the other man with him -- who he identified, but was later cleared -- who chose the location of the robbery.
"We were riding around Swissvale, Braddock for a little bit, and he says he has this lick [robbery] he wants to set up," Mr. Andrejco said in the recording. "So I ask where, and he says over Clairton, you know, ex-girlfriend's old neighbor."
Mr. Andrejco's defense attorney, Ralph Karsh, questioned that part of the confession given to Detective Steven Hitchings.
"His story to you was that it was [the other man's] idea to hit the lick?" Mr. Karsh asked.
"Correct," Detective Hitchings answered.
"Did you know that to be contrary to what witnesses told detectives?" Mr. Karsh continued.
"I did not know that," the detective answered.
Mr. Karsh has said that his client was forced to confess and that he did not participate in the robbery.
Detective Hitchings said that when he first began questioning Mr. Andrejco, the man denied any involvement in the home invasion. But about 90 minutes into their session, that changed.
"A silent pause came across the room," the detective testified. "It was apparent he was emotionally upset. His eyes started tearing up."
Then, the officer continued, Mr. Andrejco said, " 'It went bad. The lick went bad.' "
Throughout the interview, Detective Hitchings said he never yelled at, or was verbally abusive toward, Mr. Andrejco.
The defense made much of the fact that none of the early parts of Mr. Andrejco's interview was recorded.
"Whatever is said or done to an individual prior to [a recording], we have to take your word for what happened?" Mr. Karsh asked.
"Yes," Detective Hitchings answered.
First Published August 2, 2012 12:00 am