LAWRENCE COUNTY Judge denies use of outside jury, change of venue in homicide trial
The defense attorney says he can make another venue change request during jury selection.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Thomas Kimbell won't get a jury from another county to hear his case -- at least not yet.
Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Dominick Motto denied Kimbell's request to move his upcoming trial to another county or bring in a jury from another area.
The judge's written order, handed down Monday afternoon, said there wasn't enough evidence to support claims that impartial jurors can't be found in Lawrence County.
Defense attorney Thomas Leslie, however, said the judge's decision doesn't bar him from making the same request during jury selection if it becomes apparent there aren't enough impartial people to serve on the jury.
Leslie believes there are few people in the county who don't know about Kimbell's arrest and first trial in 1998. Numerous newspaper articles, television and radio reports were presented to the judge at a hearing last week to support Leslie's claim.
Victims: Kimbell, 38, was convicted in 1998 in the stabbing deaths of Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, 34; her daughters, Jacqueline, 7, and Heather, 4; and her niece Stephanie Herko, 5, in the Dryfuse home in Pulaski Township.
He was sentenced to death for the child murders and ordered to serve life in prison for Dryfuse's death, but was granted a new trial in October by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because a judge blocked crucial testimony at the first trial.
Leslie 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. Police say Herko was on the telephone with 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 "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 Krastic of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said he believes there has been sufficient time since Kimbell's 1998 trial to allow them to find impartial jurors in Lawrence County.
The trial is expected to start in August.