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LAWRENCE COUNTY Kimbell wants venue change



Published: Wed, May 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The trial should start sometime in August.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Thomas Kimbell doesn't think he can get a fair trial in Lawrence County.

The 38-year-old man accused in a quadruple homicide of a Pulaski woman, her two daughters and niece wants a Lawrence County judge to bring in a jury from another county or move his upcoming trial.

"I don't believe it's possible to pick a jury in Lawrence County. Information about this case has been presented in newspapers over the entire course of seven years. For seven years people have been talking about this," said Thomas Leslie, Kimbell's attorney, during a hearing Tuesday.

Leslie gave Judge Dominick Motto copies of newspaper articles from four area newspapers including The Vindicator, with articles as recent as a few months ago.

"Today we have newspaper reporters here. Tomorrow we will read about this in the paper," Leslie said pointing to the audience.

Previous conviction: Leslie said he believes it is impossible to find a Lawrence County juror who is not aware of Kimbell's first trial and has formed an opinion.

Kimbell was previously convicted in the stabbing deaths of his neighbor, Bonnie Dryfuse, 34; her daughters, Jaqueline, 7, and Heather, 4; and her niece Stephanie Herko, 5.

He was sentenced to death in 1998 for the child murders, and ordered to serve life in prison for Dryfuse's death.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Kimbell a new trial in October because a judge blocked crucial testimony at the first trial.

Leslie had appealed the sentence on the claim that he was not allowed to question Stephanie's mother, Mary Herko, during Kimbell's first trial about changes in her story.

Discrepancy: Police say Herko was on the telephone with Bonnie Dryfuse about 40 minutes before she and the children died on June 15, 1994. At trial, Herko quoted Dryfuse as telling her, "Someone is pulling up the driveway," before Dryfuse hung up the telephone.

But Herko said in a statement to police that Dryfuse said, "Jake is pulling up the driveway."

Herko's brother and Dryfuse's husband, Tom Dryfuse, goes by the nickname "Jake." He discovered the bodies shortly after 3 p.m., 40 minutes after Herko said her call to Bonnie Dryfuse ended.

Prosecutor Anthony Krastek said it won't matter what county the jurors live in; they will probably realize it's a retrial at some point.

Krastek said he intends to read testimony into the record from someone who testified in the first trial and has since died.

The judge is expected to decide the issue soon.

Leslie said the trial will likely begin sometime in August.




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