- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

SIX MILE RUN, Pa. (AP) - Allegations that a man shot in his sleep had abused his wife for years could result in a reduced murder charge against the daughter charged with killing him, a prosecutor said.

But Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins said the abuse allegations aren’t enough to exonerate Christy Zelanko, 48, of Six Mile Run. She remained jailed without bond Friday, charged with first-degree murder and accused of shooting 68-year-old James Zelanko five times as he slept early Wednesday.

At a news conference Thursday, Higgins said the abuse claims, if proved, could possibly result in a lesser murder charge and spare her from a possible life sentence.

“Does it provide mitigation? It may,” Higgins said. “Does it provide justification? Certainly not.”

Higgins said James Zelanko wasn’t abusing anyone when he was shot.

“It’s not something that occurred that day that she responded to,” Higgins said. “It’s something that built up over time.”

Zelanko was speaking on the phone to her girlfriend and to her mother about the abuse allegations minutes before the shooting, police said.

Zelanko then walked to her parents’ home next door, knocked on the basement door and was crying when she was let in by her mother, authorities said. Zelanko’s mother told police she thought her daughter was going upstairs to wake her husband and heard three or four “slapping” sounds.

When the mother went upstairs to check on them, Christy Zelanko was crying and said, “I’m sorry, I think I just killed Dad,” the mother told police.

Court records don’t list an attorney for Zelanko.

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