The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 27, 2013

‘Dad’s gone. I killed him' | Man who killed his father with a hammer is headed to trial

Patrick Buchnowski

— Thirty-one-year-old Jonathan Robert Kuzma admitted he struck his father two times in the head with a hammer, then stabbed him 15 times to make sure he was dead, authorities testified Monday.

The testimony came at Kuzma’s preliminary hearing where he was ordered to stand trial, accused of killing John P. Kuzma, 52, inside their Bond Street home on Aug. 2.

Kuzma is charged with criminal homicide. In gruesome detail, authorities portrayed Kuzma as an out-of-control heroin addict who killed his father because he wouldn’t loan him his car to drive to a methadone clinic in Altoona.

“This a very tragic and violent case,” Assistant District Attorney Kevin Persio said.

Kuzma admitted he killed his father, a former Pepsi Co. worker and dog lover, witnesses testified.

“He stated he waited for his father to fall asleep in his chair, got a hammer from the kitchen and struck his father in the head,” police Sgt. Thomas Owens said. “He thought he was still breathing and stabbed him.”

Owens was one of four witnesses called to testify by Persio and Assistant District Attorney Gary Jubas.  

Owens said Kuzma became emotional when police questioned him about the murder.

“He appeared to be upset,” Owens said. “He appeared to have regret. At times he would get emotional and cry a little bit.”

Chief Deputy Coroner Jeffrey Lees said the victim was stabbed eight times in the chest and seven times in the neck. He died from traumatic head injury due to bludgeoning, Lees said.

The trail of blood indicated the body had been dragged from the chair across the living room to bottom of the basement steps.

“It appeared the deceased was dragged through the living room,” Lees said.

Lees said he pronounced Kuzma dead at the scene.

‘Dad’s gone. I killed him.’

City Detective Brett Hinterliter said the investigation began after a 911 called from Nathan Kuzma around 9 p.m. Nathan Kuzma told police his brother came to his residence on Ferndale Avenue and confessed to the killing.

Hinterliter recalled what Nathan Kuzma said Jonathan Kuzma told him the night of the murder: “I couldn’t take it anymore. Dad’s gone. I killed him.”

City Detective Lawrence Wagner testified about what was found inside the home after obtaining a search warrant.

Pools of blood on the chair and rug in the living room. Blood on the walls and basement steps.

A bloody claw hammer and bloody knife with a 3-inch blade were found in a trash can in the kitchen and a body laying face down in the basement.

“It appeared the skull was fractured open,” Wagner said.

Investigators sent the hammer and knife to the state police crime lab in Greensburg, he said.

Investigators hope to find Jonathan Kuzma’s DNA on the handle of the hammer and his father’s blood on the claw.

Detectives believe that after the murder Kuzma showered and then raided his father’s safe using a key found in the man’s backpack.

He took jewelry, money, prescription drugs, a Sheetz card and a .22-caliber handgun that he later exchanged for heroin, a witness said.

Kuzma let two pit bulls out into the yard so they wouldn’t chew the body or lick the blood, the witness said.

Authorities: Motive was drugs

Kuzma consumed the prescription drugs and used his father’s 2007 Chrysler sedan to pick up a female friend to buy heroin. The couple had about 14 stamp bags of heroin, authorities said.

For much of the hearing Kuzma kept his head down, quietly listening to testimony. He wore sandals and an orange prison uniform as he sat between public defenders Richard Messina and Michael Filia.

Hinterliter said Kuzma drove to his brother’s home and confessed to the murder.

A frantic Nathan Kuzma went to a neighbor’s house to call 911. Jonathan had something else on his mind. Who would care for his two pit bulls?

“He went to a neighbor’s house to call a no-kill shelter,” Hinterliter said.

Police arrested Kuzma at his brother’s residence.

Owens said he drove Kuzma to Memorial Medical Center for a blood test. Results were not available for the hearing.

“As we learned through the hearing there were medical tests conducted – specifically a toxicology report,” Filia said. “We need to see the report. That, I believe, will play a major part in how we present our defense in this case.”

Persio said Kuzma was not on drugs at the time of the killing.

“The motive for the crime was to obtain drugs,” he said. “He was not under the influence of any drugs that would have impaired his ability to understand what was going on before the acts were committed.”

Police also charged Kuzma with aggravated assault, robbery, theft and receiving stolen property.

He is being held without bond at the Cambria County Prison.