SLIPPERY ROCK —
The Slippery Rock community has lost two new residents who looked forward to being involved in the community.
Kenneth and Celeste Abbott--ages 65 and 55, respectively--had come to Slippery Rock to enjoy their retirement, according to Mike Bencic, local businessman and owner of the Slippery Rock Sliders, in which Abbott was an active shareholder.
According to court reports, it has been determined that the couple was killed in early June, and their remains were burned on their property on West Liberty Road in Brady Township.
Pennsylvania State Police received a call on July 13 from New Jersey State Police requesting a welfare check of the Abbotts, according to Cpl. Daniel Herr with the state police crime division at the Butler barracks.
In a police affidavit filed with district court in Slippery Rock, Melissa Elich, Mrs. Abbott’s daughter, had contacted New Jersey State Police, indicating that her stepbrother, Colin Abbott, had told her the Abbotts had been in a fatal car crash in New Jersey.
However, police there had no record of such a crash, the affidavit states.
It continued: Pennsylvania State Police officers went to the residence last Wednesday to check on the Abbotts and found no one was there.
When no one responded at the residence, police began searching the other buildings on the property, Herr said. The home is situated on 25 acres with two ponds and several out-buildings, the affidavit states.
The bones were discovered in and around one of the ponds that is about 250 yards from the house, according to the affidavit; and between the pond and the house were two burn barrels about 200 yards from the house.
After the discovery of the bones, state police obtained a search warrant July 13 and called in a forensic anthropology team from Mercyhurst College, Erie, Herr said.
According to the affidavit, Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat, a certified forensic anthropologist, told police he immediately identified the top part of a human skull with the upper jaw and teeth, a lower jaw with some teeth, smaller pelvic bones consistent with a female, and larger pelvic bones consistent with a male, and two femurs. Most of the bones were found in and near the pond; however, the large pelvic bones and part of one femur were found on top of a dirt pile located next to the burn barrels, it stated.
Dirkmaat said in a separate interview that he had a team of about 11 or 12 graduate students and faculty who helped complete work at the site in about a day and a half; they are now completing analysis in an Erie laboratory.
As of Tuesday morning, the cause of death had not yet been determined.
Chief investigator on the case, Pennsylvania state Trooper Chris Birckbichler, contacted Elich, who explained how her stepbrother, Colin Abbott, had told her June 11 about the car crash near Plant City, N.J. He also told her details about the crash and that they were burned beyond recognition, he added.
Elich told police that Colin had said the Abbotts were driving their maroon Cadillac and the crash occurred on or about June 8, Birckbichler explained. However, Elich became concerned when she could not locate Plant City on a map, and recalled her mother had told her that the Abbotts had traded that car in, he added. When questioned about Plant City, police said Colin changed the story to Atlantic City.
New Jersey State Police obtained a search warrant for the son’s home in Randolph. There, officers found a red leather woman’s wallet with numerous credit cards bearing Celeste Abbott’s name, along with her driver’s license and some cash, and a .380-caliber automatic pistol, the affidavit states. The wallet with the cards and cash were found in a black gun case with the gun, and the pistol had an empty chamber with two live rounds in the magazine the report states.
Birckbichler also interviewed Adam Tower, Celeste Abbott’s son, who said that he had talked to Colin on July 12. He told police that Colin insisted that Tower not contact the insurance company and that Colin would be taking care of the estate. When questioned about the couple’s ashes, Colin told Tower that he had them, but had not spread them at the farm yet, the report said.
State police have also interviewed Ken Abbott’s brother, who lives in West Sunbury, Butler County. He told police that Colin notified him of his brother’s death on June 11, and that Colin related the story of the fiery crash to him, according to court records.
Colin Abbott, 40, was arrested at his Randolph, N.J. home as a suspect in the deaths.
“While New Jersey State Police were questioning Colin, Pennsylvania State Police filed criminal homicide charges at District Judge Tim Shaffer’s court in Slippery Rock,” Herr said. Court records show that this was on July 14.
“The son remains in custody in New Jersey. Extradition has not been arranged at this time,” he added on Tuesday.
State and local police in New Jersey would not comment on the case.
Story was published July 20, 2011.