Body still missing, but man convicted in killing
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After tracking the case of a missing Jefferson Hills man for more than two years, investigators figured they had their man. But they still didn't have a body.
So, according to sources close to the case, prosecutors made Bryan Sedlak an offer: Two to four years in prison for voluntary manslaughter if Mr. Sedlak revealed the location of Patrick Kenney's corpse.
He declined and decided to take his chances in a jury trial.
Mr. Sedlak, 37, of Greenfield, took the witness stand last week claiming that he killed Mr. Kenney in self-defense when the victim tried to rob him of money and drugs. He claimed ignorance of the body's location, saying a friend -- cocaine dealer Robert Hoover -- got rid of the corpse and wouldn't tell where it is.
Yesterday, an Allegheny County jury convicted Mr. Sedlak of third-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.
Those crimes combine to carry a maximum sentence of 21 to 42 years in prison, though Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning indicated that, again, it might be less if Mr. Sedlak gives up the body.
"If he wants anything less than the maximum penalty allowed by law, he might want to rethink his story," Judge Manning told defense attorney Paul Boas as he revoked Mr. Sedlak's bond and sent him to jail.
The Kenney family, elated by the verdict, said they were still aching to know what really happened to Patrick.
"We hope Bryan Sedlak finally tells us the truth and tells us where Patrick Kenney's body is," said the victim's brother, J.P. Kenney.
He was joined by parents James and Ellen Kenney in the front row of the courtroom gallery throughout five days of sometimes jarring testimony that explored the depths of Patrick Kenney's cocaine addiction and included gruesome possibilities about what happened to the body.
The trial began with a surprise admission from the defense. Attorney Lisa Middleman, in her opening statement, said Mr. Sedlak killed Mr. Kenney -- but he did it in self-defense.
Even Judge Manning -- in a conversation with attorneys when jurors were out of the room -- later said he was shocked that the defense would admit that without a body to show it.
But the defense was able to use prosecution testimony to bolster its argument. Four witnesses testified that Mr. Sedlak told them he killed Mr. Kenney and asked for help moving the body, and all said Mr. Sedlak told them Mr. Kenney was trying to rob him at the time.
Then Mr. Sedlak took the stand, saying that Mr. Kenney was in the midst of a 24-hour cocaine binge Feb. 2, 2005, when the two were in the back of the Waters Edge Tanning Salon in Homestead, which Mr. Sedlak owned and was renovating at the time.
He said Mr. Kenney -- out of coke and desperate for more -- tried to rob him and shot at him three times with a pistol before Mr. Sedlak returned fire with a .22-caliber rifle, killing him.
Mr. Sedlak testified that instead of going to police, he went to Mr. Hoover out of fear because there was cocaine involved. He said Mr. Hoover got rid of the body and never told him how.
Mr. Hoover testified that he saw the body but didn't help dispose of it. He said Mr. Sedlak later bragged about the killing around Greenfield and told Mr. Hoover he had skinned Mr. Kenney and dumped some of the skin into sulfuric acid.
In failed motions to dismiss the charges and in his closing, Mr. Boas argued strenuously that prosecutors did not disprove self-defense.
He said Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini used details that happened after the killing to distract from the fact that she didn't have enough evidence to prove a murder. Ms. Pellegrini said Mr. Sedlak's cover-up was proof enough that he felt guilty about an unjustified killing, and his testimony had too many holes.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before siding with the prosecution.
"I'm disappointed with the verdict, and I'm not sure how the jury arrived at it," said Mr. Boas, who appeared crestfallen. He added that he saw several grounds on which to appeal, but he would not reveal specifics, saying, "The fight's not over."
The verdict ends a four-year saga for the Kenney family and prosecutors. Allegheny County homicide Sgt. Scott Scherer said he has talked to Ellen Kenney on the phone probably twice a week since February 2005.
"Today is Patrick Kenney's day," J.P. Kenney said. "He's looking down from heaven and he's very happy."
Still, Mr. Kenney's earthly resting place remains a mystery.
First Published February 19, 2009 12:00 am