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October 8, 2013

Son pleads not guilty in death of father

EBENSBURG — The Moxham man charged in the August bludgeoning death of his father will not face the death penalty if he is found guilty of first-degree murder.

Dressed in orange prison garb, Jonathan Robert Kuzma made his first appearance in Cambria County court Tuesday, where he entered a not guilty plea in the Aug. 2 death of his father, John Kuzma.

Kuzma, 31, is charged with hitting his father twice in the head with a hammer, then stabbing him 15 times after the two fought inside their Bond Street home.

He showed no emotion and politely responded when questioned by Cambria County Judge Timothy Creany regarding his understanding of his rights leading up to trial.

He is charged with 11 counts including criminal homicide, and multiple counts of aggravated assault, robbery, theft and receiving stolen property.

After the murder, Kuzma allegedly raided his father’s safe and made off with jewelry, money, prescription drugs and a handgun.

Police say the younger Kuzma waited until his 52-year-old father fell asleep in his chair. He is alleged to have retrieved a hammer from the kitchen and struck his father in the head.

City police, testifying at a preliminary hearing in late August, said that in the hours after the murder, Kuzma admitted to police that he killed his father.

He thought his father was still breathing, so he stabbed him 15 times, police recently testified.

The elder Kuzma died of traumatic head injury due to the bludgeoning, an autopsy revealed.

The two had apparently fought after the father refused to let his son borrow his car to drive to a methadone clinic in Altoona.

Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Persio told Creany he would not be seeking the death penalty.

Later he explained that the prosecution reviewed the aggravating factors necessary for a jury to determine Kuzma should die, and decided against it.

Kuzma’s family also had a voice in that decision, he said.

“We discussed it with the family and we considered their input,” Persio said.

Creany said he will issue a pretrial schedule in November.

Kuzma is being defended by Michael Filia and Richard Messina of the Cambria County Public Defender’s Office.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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