Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Monday, June 2, 2014
Bensalem man will be tried on homicide & assisted suicide charges in mom's death
Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014
A 30-year-old Bensalem man will face trial on charges of homicide and assisted suicide in the death of his 59-year-mother, though his defense attorney believes seven handwritten notes found in the home suggest her death resulted from a mother-son suicide pact.
Following an emotional, two-hour preliminary hearing Wednesday, Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone held Koustantinos “Gus” Yiambilis for trial in Bucks County on all charges including an open homicide charge and a newly added — and rarely used — one: causing or aiding in suicide. He is being held without bail at Bucks County prison.
Yiambilis’ defense attorney, William Goldman Jr., expressed disappointment that the homicide charge was held.
Suicide notes written by Gus and Karen Yiambilis
“This is not a homicide,” Goldman said. “It was a double attempted suicide. He survived. She didn’t.”
Prosecution witnesses included Bensalem police officers and fire officials who responded to Longmeadow apartments on April 7, when Karen Yiambilis was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, a result of a gas generator running in the family’s apartment.
In a rare legal move, Goldman called two witnesses including neighbor Karen Linsalata, who testified Karen Yiambilis asked her twice to borrow her gas generator the day she died. In court documents, Bensalem police allege Linsalta told them that Gus Yiambilis borrowed her generator.
Several Bensalem police officers testified about responding to the Bristol Road complex after receiving reports of a possible hazardous condition and the smell of fumes in apartment No. 117, where Gus and Karen Yiambilis lived.
According to testimony, firefighters and police officers pounded on doors and windows for at least several minutes around 11:30 p.m. When Gus Yiambilis finally answered the door, he appeared disoriented. They noticed a haze throughout the dark apartment and the strong smell of exhaust fumes.
Yiambilis allegedly told police his mom was asleep in the bedroom where officers found the gas generator, though it was unclear Wednesday if it was running at the time. Yiambilis told police he was using the generator because PECO has shut off power to the house, and that he re-filled the generator with gas around 9 p.m. then fell asleep, according to testimony.
Karen Yiambilis was pronounced dead at the scene; an autopsy found she died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Bensalem fire investigator Robert Sponheimer testified that carbon monoxide readings in two of the four neighboring apartments at potentially dangerous levels. Residents of four apartments were evacuated for two hours until the fumes dissipated.
Bensalem police officer Matthew Tobie testified that Yiambilis — who was also hospitalized and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning — started crying when he was placed in handcuffs at the hospital and blurted out, “I can’t believe I killed my mother. She’s the only thing I got.”
Detective Gregory Jackson, who was responsible for processing the crime scene, testified that he found evidence that doors and windows in the bedroom where Karen Yiambilis and the generator were found had been sealed off with packing and duct tape.
He also testified he found five suicide notes — four on a dresser in the bedroom and the fifth on a nightstand. The notes — allegedly written by Karen and Gus — were addressed to two other Yiambilis children, a son and daughter.
In the notes to her children, Karen Yiambilis requested that her hair be donated to the charity “Locks of Love,” and “I love you. Please understand why we left this world. Gus and I were very unhappy.” In a note to her son, Karen Yiambilis wrote: “Gus and I are leaving. It’s too much pain here.”
Gus and Karen Yiambilis
Only one note was not written to anyone: “The negativity in this world is too much for us to deal with, we are sorry but we wish to not deal with it anymore. We are going home to God.”
After her death, neighbors said that Yiambilis and her son had fallen on hard financial times recently. Karen had lost her job a couple months earlier and Gus had lost his job days before Karen’s death, they said.
On cross examination, Jackson testified that he didn’t attempt to find out who wrote the notes or the names on the envelopes.
Both Jackson and Detective Jack Gohl also testified they were aware that two more suicide notes were found after police released the crime scene to the family. The notes were found on the floor near the dresser where other notes were found. The additional notes were immediately turned over to police.
One of the notes was allegedly written by Karen, the other by Gus, according to testimony. They were both addressed to Yiambilis’ husband and Gus’ father.
When Goldman questioned Gohl how investigators could have missed the notes, the detective replied that the crime scene was a “cluttered, unstable area.”
The newspaper obtained copies of the seven notes.
Goldman also put Nick Yiambilis on the witness stand where he testified that he recognized the handwriting on the suicide notes as either his mother’s or his brother’s, and that Karen’s handwriting was on the envelopes.
On cross examination by Assistant District Attorney A.J. Garabedian, though, Nick Yiambilis admitted he did not respond to police interview requests involving the case.