Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The trial began today for a Pennsylvania state trooper accused of killing his girlfriend’s estranged husband.
Kevin Foley, 43, is accused of cutting the throat of John Yelenic, a dentist who was in the final stages of finalizing a divorce from his wife, Michele. According to prosecutors, Foley “loathed Dr. Yelenic” so much that he asked another fellow trooper to help him commit the alleged murder, which occurred in Yelenic’s Blairsville home.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek told an Indiana County jury that Foley also prayed Yelenic would die, and spread false rumors that Yelenic molested his adopted son.
“You will see Kevin Foley has the motive, the opportunity and the ability to commit this crime, almost to the exclusion of anybody else,” Krastek said.
Foley’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Monzo, said during opening statements that DNA evidence was not conclusive. Monzo admitted to the jury that Foley did not like Yelenic, but said that does not mean he murdered him.
“Kevin Foley is innocent,” he said.
Prosecutors said they could call as many as 70 witnesses to try and prove Foley wanted Yelenic to die. The trial, at the Indiana County Courthouse, is expected to last about three weeks.
Foley, who is on unpaid suspension from the Pennsylvania State Police, is charged with criminal homicide. The jury has the option of convicting him of first-degree murder, which could put Foley in prison for life without parole, or of a lesser degree charge, like manslaughter.
John Yelenic was found dead in his home on April 13, 2006, one day before he was planning on signing his divorce papers. Prosecutors said Foley killed Yelenic after going to the dentist’s house to confront him over the terms of the divorce. Prosecutors claim Foley slashed Yelenic several times with a knife and pushed his head through a small window, causing a further gash on his neck. Yelenic bled to death.
Foley had been living with Michele Yelenic for two years at the time of the alleged homicide. Krastek said Michele also helped perpetuate rumors that Dr. Yelenic molested their son. John and Michele Yelenic had been separated in 2002. Michele Yelenic stood to collect Dr. Yelenic’s estate and a $1 million life insurance policy, and could lose about $2,500 a month in support if the divorce was finalized, a Pennsylvania grand jury previously determined.
Michele Yelenic is expected to testify that Foley was home with her when the alleged murder occurred. Krastek told the jury DNA under Yelenic’s fingerprints will ultimately link him to the murder, as will bloody shoe prints found at the crime scene that match athletic shoes Foley is known to wear.
Monzo also said authorities have failed to investigate several other suspects, including Yelenic’s neighbor. Monzo said Yelenic was on very friendly terms with the neighbor’s wife, which could have given him a motive to commit the murder.
Prior to the trial, Foley’s defense attorneys unsuccessfully sought a change of venue because an overwhelming majority of the jury pool was familiar with the allegations. The change was denied when jurors insisted they had not formed an opinion about the charges.