Monday, October 6, 2014

DA: Bensalem mom's desire to die doesn't mean son didn't kill her

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A legal document filed in the controversial criminal case involving a Bensalem man accused of killing his mother in an apparent suicide pact provides new insight into the prosecution’s reasoning for seeking a homicide charge.
But will the paperwork filed by assistant district attorney Alan J. Garabedian be enough for Bucks County Judge Albert Cepparulo, who at an August hearing asked the prosecutor to show that Koustantinos “Gus” Yiambilis acted with malice, an intention necessary to support a homicide charge?
“The question of whether the defendant intended to kill Karen Yiambilis, and did so with malice, is a red herring. Of course, there was intent, of course there was malice,” Garabedian wrote in his brief. “The fact that Ms. Yiambilis wanted to die, which the Commonwealth does not, and has never, disputed ... does not magically make this a suicide.”
Gus Yiambilis & his mom Karen
Garabedian added that if Karen Yiambilis died of a gunshot wound, rather than carbon monoxide poisoning, her death would not be labeled as a suicide simply because “evidence existed she wanted to die, wrote a letter to that effect, and ultimately, consciously decided to not move out of the way of the bullet when her assister fired at her.”
Cepparulo is expected to rule any day on a defense request to dismiss the homicide and felony risking catastrophe charges against Koustantinos Yiambilis, 30, in connection with the April 7 death of his 59-year-old mother with whom he lived. Yiambilis who is incarcerated in Bucks County prison, is also facing felony charges of aiding in suicide and risking a catastrophe and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
The case has generated national attention mainly because prosecutors pursued both charges of homicide and aiding in suicide against Yiambilis despite evidence of a double suicide attempt.
In supporting the homicide charge, Garabedian called the death of Karen Yiambilis the “specific and intentional result” of Gus Yiambilis running a borrowed portable gas generator inside the bedroom and at one point refilling it when it ran out of gas.
“Defendant ran a generator with the intent to kill Karen Yiambilis.... Karen Yiambilis did not kill herself,” Garabedian contends in the brief filed Sept. 8 and obtained by the newspaper recently. “This killing was done intentionally, as evidenced by the notes left at the crime scene indicating both defendant’s and victim’s intent to die.”
Garabedian wrote that in situations such as mutual suicide pacts, deterring those who “take the final step for others” by classifying it as criminal homicide serves the “rational purpose of protecting human life.”
“Individuals can talk about killing themselves, imagine how they are going to do it, and prepare to do it, but the law cannot and should not punish these steps,” Garabedian said in the brief. “The law should, however, see, to deter the ultimate final step when it is not taken by the individual desiring to kill themselves, especially if the dying individual is perfectly capable of committing the final act themselves.”
Garabedian added that Gus Yiambilis’ decision to answer the front door when police were pounding on it took him out of the “zone of danger” in the carbon monoxide-filled bedroom, reducing his chances of dying.
Garabedian also cited as a key piece of evidence supporting the homicide charge a statement made by Gus Yiambilis at the hospital, where he was taken for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning the night of his mother’s death. Yiambilis allegedly said, “I can’t believe I killed my mother. She’s the only thing I got.”
“If there is doubt that the defendant killed Karen Yiambilis, there should not be, for even the defendant knows he killed his mother because he acknowledges it, as well.”
In legal briefs filed in August, Yiambilis’ defense team reiterated its argument that the available evidence shows that Karen Yiambilis was the “leader” in planning and executing the suicides that neither expected to survive. The defense argues that Gus survived only because he answered the door after 10 minutes of pounding by police who were investigating neighbors’ complaints of gas fumes and noise.
Attorney William Goldman added that no Pennsylvania legal decision explicitly addresses criminal liability and suicide pacts during which a participant survives.
“The only evidence for homicide that the Commonwealth can muster is Mr. Yiambilis’ statement to police that he operated the generator,” Goldman wrote. “It also does nothing to show malice toward his mother or some other premeditation and specific intent to kill, which are necessary elements for murder.”
But as part of the court filing, Goldman has made an additional request to suppress Yiambilis’ “I can’t believe I killed my mother” statement. At the Habeas Corpus hearing in August, Goldman contended that police took the statement out of context.
In the brief, Goldman argued that Gus Yiambilis was receiving treatment for the carbon monoxide poisoning at the hospital and that he was in a physically diminished state when he was interviewed by two Bensalem detectives several hours after the incident.
Goldman also cited a police report that stated that after police told Gus that his mother was unable to be revived he started crying and asked to see his mother one last time. He was placed in a wheelchair and taken to see his mother’s body, which was also at the hospital, the brief said.
“Upon seeing his mother, Mr. Yiambilis then began to cry again and got up from the wheelchair and placed his head on his mother’s head and stated, ‘She was all I had,’ over and over,’” according to the brief.

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