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LAWRENCE CO. MURDER TRIAL Kimbell's family says he was home at time of killings



Published: Tue, April 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A repairman also saw Thomas Kimbell at his parent's home before the killings.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Thomas Kimbell's mother and two sisters testified he was home when a woman and three children were murdered in a nearby trailer.

Shirley Kimbell said her son was making a sandwich and drinking Kool-Aid during her 20-minute telephone conversation with her daughter, Ruth Brenner, which ended at 2:20 p.m. June 15, 1994.

Police think Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, 34, her daughters, Jacqueline, 7, and Heather, 4, and her niece, Stephanie Herko, 5, were killed sometime from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Dryfuse trailer at 100 Ambrosia Road. All four were stabbed repeatedly.

Kimbell's family members say he can't be the killer because he was at home in Heritage Hills Trailer Park, about one mile from the murder scene.

Brenner said her brother answered the telephone when she called her parents' trailer about 2 p.m. and he gave her a hard time for not picking him up earlier in the day when she saw him hitchhiking in downtown New Castle.

Second phone conversation

Shirley Kimbell said her son was on the living room floor when she called her other daughter, Beverly Murphy, about 2:30 p.m. Mrs. Kimbell said she knows the conversation ended just after 3 p.m. because she recalls hanging up when hearing initial information about the murders on the family's police scanner.

County 911 tapes reveal the first call for help was made at 3:04 p.m.

Kimbell, 40, could face the death penalty if convicted. He has always maintained his innocence.

Police contend Kimbell was high on crack cocaine and looking for more when he killed Dryfuse and the children.

Anthony Krastek of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office questioned Mrs. Kimbell's memory of that day's events when she couldn't recall if her husband, who was terminally ill with cancer, was using an oxygen tank at that time.

"You can't remember an oxygen tank, which is very visible, but you can remember your son drank Kool-Aid at two in the afternoon?" Krastek said.

Krastek also asked about Thomas Kimbell's temper and crack cocaine problem.

Other witnesses said Kimbell spent that morning getting high on crack cocaine and had a volatile temper.

Denies abusiveness

Mrs. Kimbell said she had no idea when her son was on crack and that he wasn't physically abusive toward the family. "He didn't beat on us," she said.

She did reveal that her husband and son fought that night and the next day over a missing watch. She said her son told her after his arrest for the murders that he stole the watch to buy crack.

Robert Patrick, the maintenance man at Heritage Hills Trailer Park, said he saw Kimbell walking into his parents' trailer just before 2 p.m. the day of the murders. Patrick said he was leaving to pick up a part to repair the trailer park's waterline, which he shut off about 1:30 p.m.

Prosecutors contend Kimbell came home after the murders and showered.

Patrick said there was no water service in the trailer park until 2:50 p.m. that day because of a faulty waterline.




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