INDIANA, PA. (AP) - A suspended Pennsylvania state trooper faces life in prison after a jury convicted him in the bloody slashing death of a dentist who was divorcing the lawman’s live-in girlfriend.
The jury found Trooper Kevin Foley, 43, guilty of a single count of first-degree murder, returning the verdict at 10 p.m. Wednesday after six hours of deliberations.
Foley, of Indiana, Pa., was the last witness the jury heard, taking the stand Wednesday to say he was only joking when he told colleagues he wished for Dr. John Yelenic’s death.
Prosecutors said Foley stopped at Yelenic’s home after a hockey game and slashed him with a knife before slamming his head through a window, leaving the dentist to bleed to death in his Blairsville home on April 13, 2006
“John has his justice tonight,” said Yelenic’s cousin, Mary Ann Clark, who was crying after the verdict was read.
Yelenic, 39, was killed a day before he was to sign papers finalizing the divorce from his wife, Michele, who was living with Foley. The couple’s separation was so rancorous that Yelenic’s attorney asked a judge to issue a posthumous divorced decree _ saying Yelenic would have wanted it _ but the judge refused, saying she couldn’t legally end a marriage that was terminated with Yelenic’s death.
Foley’s attorney said he’ll appeal.
“We’re very disappointed with the verdict,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Monzo. “We still believe Kevin is innocent. We will press forward.”
Foley has been on unpaid suspension since his arrest in September 2007. He will be formally sentenced June 1, but the first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence without parole.
In his testimony Wednesday, Foley flatly denied killing Yelenic and explained that he was only “joking” when he told other troopers, who had testified earlier in the trial, he wished the man would die.
Asked by his other defense attorney, Richard Galloway, if he “in any manner, at any time, with any instrumentality” caused Yelenic’s death, Foley said, “No, sir, I did not.”
“Are you innocent?” Galloway asked.
“Yes, sir, I am innocent,” Foley said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek had introduced testimony that DNA found under Yelenic’s fingernails was likely from Foley and that bloody shoe prints at the scene matched a pair Foley was known to wear at the time.
Krastek questioned Foley about testimony by other troopers who said he talked about wishing for Yelenic’s death. One trooper testified that Foley asked for his help to kill Yelenic.
Foley acknowledged that he didn’t like Yelenic, but said he was a practical joker and had made the comments in jest.
“Is it funny when you asked … that you wanted help killing John Yelenic?” Krastek said. “What’s so funny about that? Tell me the joke.”
“There isn’t any joke,” Foley replied. “It’s just my personality, my behavior.”
Foley was led from the courtroom in handcuffs and remains jailed pending his formal sentencing.