Monday, October 6, 2014
Homicide charge dropped in Bensalem suicide-pact case
Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
A 30-year-old Bensalem man who survived a suicide pact in which his mother died earlier this year will not face a homicide charge, a Bucks County judge ruled Wednesday.
“I have found in this case a complete lack of malice,” Judge Albert Cepparulo said in handing down his decision on a defense request to dismiss the charge against Koustantinos “Gus” Yiambilis in the April 7 death of his mother, Karen Yiambilis, 59.
Cepparulo also granted a second defense request to dismiss a felony charge of causing a catastrophe against Yiambilis.
“I am extremely happy justice has been served,” Yiambilis’ attorney, William Goldman Jr., said afterward. “Gus Yiambilis did not kill his mom and he is not guilty of causing a catastrophe. Those were the two most serious offenses Gus was facing.”
Assistant District Attorney Alan J. Garabedian declined comment after the decision.
Yiambilis still faces felony charges of aiding in suicide and risking a catastrophe and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. Goldman said he and the District Attorney’s Office will begin discussions toward a possible plea agreement on the remaining charges.
Yiambilis remains in the county prison, where he has been incarcerated since his April arrest. Cepparula set his bail at $500,000, because the homicide charge has been tossed. Goldman said that his client will not challenge the bail amount until after the next court appearance.
That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 6, during which Yiambilis could enter a guilty plea and be sentenced.
The Bensalem case has generated national attention mainly because of the district attorney’s decision to charge Yiambilis with both homicide and aiding in a suicide even with the evidence that Yiambilis and his mother had a suicide pact. No Pennsylvania legal decisions exist that explicitly address criminal liability and suicide pacts in which one participant survives, Goldman said.
In legal filings, 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. He stated that while Karen Yiambilis wanted to die, it doesn’t mean her son didn’t kill her.
“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.”
Karen Yiambilis died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the East Bristol Road apartment she shared with her son. Gus Yiambilis was also treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Bensalem police found a borrowed gas generator running inside Karen Yiambilis’ bedroom, where her body was found.
Bensalem police allege that Yiambilis said he borrowed the generator from a neighbor, re-filled it with gas after it ran out around 9 p.m. and then fell asleep. Emergency responders arrived at the Longmeadow apartment complex around 11:30 p.m. after receiving reports of noise and gas fumes.
The generator’s owner has claimed that Karen Yiambilis, not Gus, asked to borrow the machine twice on the day of her death.
Authorities testified at a preliminary hearing in the case that carbon monoxide readings in two of the four apartments adjacent to the Yiambilis’ reached potentially dangerous levels. Residents of the four apartments were evacuated for two hours until the fumes dissipated.
Yiambilis’ defense team, lead by Goldman, had argued that available evidence showed that Karen Yiambilis was the “leader” in planning and executing the suicide pact, and that neither expected to survive.
Among the evidence Goldman cited, seven suicide notes — four written by Karen Yiambilis, including one in which she directs her daughter to donate her hair to the charity Locks of Love. He also cited the neighbor’s testimony that Karen, not Gus, borrowed the gas generator and a fingerprint analysis that showed none of the 41 prints lifted from packing tape used to seal vents, doors and windows in the bedroom where Yiambilis died matched Gus’. Police did not take Karen Yiambilis’ fingerprints before she was cremated.
Goldman contended that Gus survived the suicide attempt only because he answered the door when police pounded on it for 10 minutes. Police reported that Gus Yiambilis — who was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning — appeared lethargic and confused when he answered the door. There was also a haze in the apartment and strong smell of gas fumes, police said.