Tough Life Tough Sentence Tough Luck

A litany of abusive life events can be the primer to the canvas that is comprised of a lifetime of violent crimes. This may be the case for a man facing the death penalty or a life sentence in the sentencing phase of his first-degree murder trial in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, this week.

The defendant’s abuse began before he was even able to draw his first breath at birth. His mother, faced with giving birth to her 14th child, tried to end her pregnancy by ingesting over 40 pills. When her home remedy for an abortion didn’t work, she proceeded to chase the pills with nine months’ worth of vodka consumption.

It is speculated that the defendant’s mother’s alcohol abuse could have even contributed to his learning disabilities and psychological deficiencies.

The defendant was raised in a appalling environment that lacked the luxury of running water, a toilet or even glass windows to protect them from inclement weather.

Abuse was the norm while the defendant was growing up. According to his child welfare records, his mother was noted to possess an “intense murderous rage” for her children and was said to frequently arm herself with a plastic bat or one of her belts.

Still, the abused defendant and his siblings where never removed from the home. They even lacked clean clothing and soap to remove dirt and odor from their bodies. As noted by the defense’s psychologist, “If they’re not removing the children from the house in those circumstances, when are they removing children?”

The defense argues that the defendant’s crimes should be attributed to a chronology of physical, mental and sexual abuse he endured throughout his lifetime along with the history of mental illness in his family.

Source:, “Defense: Difficult life led to life of crime,” Michael R Sisak, 01 July 2011

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