Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Allentown Massacres

Deals

Steinberg reviewed the statements the boys had made, and when he spotted several significant inconsistencies, he believed that the brothers had lied. His deal had been made on the condition that they told the truth, and they had violated it. He called the deal off and announced he would accept a plea of first-degree murder from any of the defendants, but if they chose to go to trial, he would recommend death. Steinberg was convinced that Ben had killed Erik, beaten Dennis, and traveled the house to make sure everyone was dead. But the DNA results were not yet in, so he could prove nothing about that as yet. He settled on playing up the coincidence that all instances of reported trouble in the Freeman household had involved Ben.

The defense attorneys for the Freeman brothers and for Birdwell sought ways to put the various confessions into doubt or get at least two of the cases transferred to juvenile court. In making such a decision, the judge could consider the degree of criminal sophistication, the maturity level of the offenders, and their amenability to treatment. Clearly, David had a better shot than Bryan. They looked into getting the charges against him reduced to third-degree murder.

Lehigh County Courthouse
Lehigh County Courthouse

The arraignment occurred in April 26 at the Lehigh County courthouse. The defendants, Bryan and David, sat on the left. With David was Wally Worth and Brian Collins, while Earl Supplee and Mike Brunnabend sat with Bryan. Ben Birdwell, says Rosen, sat in the jury box, to be arraigned at a separate time. Defense attorney Makoul was also in the courtroom.

Lehigh County Coroner Isidore Mihalakis was called first, and the Morning Call reported his testimony. He believed that Dennis had been struck first, approximately six times on the head and seven to the chest, fracturing the ribs and breastbone. He also had found a superficial cut along Dennis's neck and fractures to his nose, eye sockets, and left jaw. The brain had come through a four-inch fracture of the forehead, and he'd been hit three to five times in the face with two different weapons. To his mind, that indicated two different attackers. Dennis had died from the extreme head injuries.

Mihalakis then reported that Brenda had died from deep stab wounds. There was a stab wound to the tip of her right shoulder that had gone at least five inches deep and a stab wound to her right scapula that went through her lung and into her heart, causing blood leakage into the chest. In addition, he'd counted eight blows to the head, one of which had been to the back. Worth asked the coroner how much blood Brenda had lost, and Mihalakis reported that it was about one-and-one-half liters. At the rate she was losing blood, it would not have taken her long to die.

Erik bore several blunt force injuries to his forehead, the left side of his face, his left arm, and the back of his hands. His brain, too, had protruded from one wound. There were injuries to the face and head, including bruises and lacerations. His hands were fractured and his left forearm bruised, indicating that he may have tried to defend himself from the blows. Erik died from front head injuries, caused by an aluminum bat.

Valerie Freeman and the responding officers each gave their accounts of the day the murders were discovered, and Valerie described the history of tension in the household. After several more witnesses, the judge ruled that the prosecution had made its case, and the brothers were going to trial. Steinberg reiterated his deal: If the boys pled guilty they would be charged with first-degree murder and serve life in prison. Neither accepted. Instead their attorneys continued with their plans to get the boys tried as juveniles. That hearing was set for sometime in the fall.

 

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