Former Duquesne student pleads guilty in 2002 killing
Lischner's charge lessened to 3rd degree murder
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 00:03
Former Duquesne student Jared Lischner, who has been serving a life-sentence without the possibility of parole for a 2002 kidnapping and murder, will be eligible for parole in April after offering a guilty plea to lessen charges approved by a judge last Thursday.
Lischner, 30, Jared Henkel, 30, and former Duquesne student Craig Elias, 31, were charged with kidnapping Anthony Brownlee, then 20, and kidnapping and murdering Andrew Jones, then 19, on March 22, 2002. Lischner was a sophomore and Elias was a senior at Duquesne, both were members of Duquesne’s football team.
On Oct. 21, 2003, a jury found Lischner guilty of second-degree murder, robbery, two counts of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and simple assault, and on Jan. 21, 2004, he was sentenced to a life-sentence for second-degree murder and 10 to 20 years on the other charges. Henkel is currently serving a life-sentence for second-degree murder, and Elias is serving life for first-degree murder.
Lischner pled guilty on Thursday to third-degree murder in the killing of Jones, for a shortened sentence of 10 to 20 years and an additional 10 years of probation.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning granted Lischner a new trial last month, but denied new trial requests for Henkel and Elias. Prosectors decided to offer a plea deal rather than try Lischner again.
Prosecutors said Lischner, Henkel and Elias kidnapped Jones and Brownlee after accusing the two of stealing a safe containing $5,000 from a Mt. Washington drug house Henkel and Elias were involved with. Jones’s body was found on April 12, 2002, at the bottom of the Ohio River with duct tape binding his wrists and a 50-pound barbell chained to his thighs.
Reports indicate that Brownlee told police he talked his way out of the house and was released into Henkel’s custody, promising to return with $3,000. Henkel released him, and Brownlee contacted authorities, according to an April 4, 2002, Duke article.
But Lischner’s attorney, Tom Farrell, said his client had left 220 W. Sycamore Street shortly after the kidnapping, under the belief that Jones would be released, and did not participate in the murder.
“My client left the house and went home. That was his position,” Farrell said. “He was under the impression that Jones was going to be released.”
Manning said he accepted the plea agreement because it “is consistent with the defendant’s participation in this crime and imposes a significant and worthy penalty.”
“While participation in conspiracies to commit crimes dangerous to human life should receive significant sentences, life without parole for a conspirator who neither caused the death of the victim nor anticipated it might occur seems inappropriate,” Manning said.
Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said his office’s decision to allow Lischner to plead guilty to third-degree murder was the most beneficial outcome for parties involved, including Jones’s family.
Jones’s mother attended the trail but declined comment.
Farrell said Lischner was a “tag-along” for Henkel and Elias.
“It’s quite clear he was friends with the two, who had been drug dealers. He grew up with them,” Farrell said. “It’s a nightmare for a mother. He hung around with these guys forever.”
Although Lischner is eligible for parole in April, Farrell said he expects his client to serve at least three more years.
Patrick Thomassey, Lischner’s trial attorney, said he was pleased with Thursday’s outcome.
“A person who actually commits the homicide should not be treated the same as a kid who was just in the car, along for the ride,” Thomassey said. “Ten years ago, I tried to get a plea offer. They wouldn’t go for it.”
Farrell said Lischner has performed well in prison and learned carpentry. He added that Lischner has expressed remorse and has taken responsibility for his involvement in Jones’s death privately to Farrell.