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NEW CASTLE Jury's still out in retrial over Pulaski slayings



Published: Fri, May 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defense tried to shift the blame to the victim's husband during closing arguments.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Jurors deciding the fate of a Lawrence County man accused in a quadruple homicide in 1994 continued deliberating this morning.

Judge Dominick Motto sent the seven women and five men home at 10:30 p.m. Thursday after they had deliberated about eight hours.

Thomas H. Kimbell Jr., 40, could face the death penalty if convicted. He is accused in the stabbing deaths of Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, 34, her daughters, Jacqueline, 7, and Heather, 4, and her niece, Stephanie Herko, 5, at the Dryfuse trailer on Ambrosia Road, Pulaski Township.

Reason for retrial

Kimbell was convicted in the slayings in 1998, but was granted a new trial by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because his attorney was not permitted to cross-examine a witness about inconsistent statements.

Prosecutors contend Kimbell killed Dryfuse and the children while on a crack cocaine binge.

Kimbell has maintained his innocence, and his defense attorneys said they were killed by Thomas "Jake" Dryfuse, husband to Mrs. Dryfuse and father of Jacqueline and Heather.

Prosecutor Anthony Krastek, however, in his closing statements said Dryfuse couldn't be the killer.

"Does a killer call 911 frantically asking for help? Does a killer call back and refer to the victims as 'my babies?'" he said.

Dryfuse called for help shortly after 3 p.m. June 15, 1994, after discovering the bodies. He called back a few minutes later when he thought he saw Heather's eyes flutter.

Police believe they were killed sometime after 2:20 p.m.

Prosecutors contend Kimbell knew things only known to the killer, including that Mrs. Dryfuse scraped the kitchen ceiling tiles with a chair as she tried to defend herself and that the back door of the trailer was bolted and unusable.

Defense attorney Thomas Leslie contends Kimbell heard about the slayings on a family police scanner.

No cuts or bruises

He also added that Kimbell, a mild hemophiliac, did not have bruises or cuts when he admitted himself into St. Francis Hospital for psychiatric help the day after the killings. A defense expert said the killer would have had cuts and bruises because Mrs. Dryfuse fought for her life.

"Tom Kimbell is no angel. He's a drug addict. He said some stupid things, but where are the cuts and bruises?" Leslie asked during his closing arguments.




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