INDIANA, Pa. – A suspended Pennsylvania state trooper denied killing a dentist who was divorcing the lawman's live-in girlfriend and testified Wednesday that he was only joking when he told colleagues he wished for the man's death.
"I never made a threat with the intention of carrying it out," Kevin Foley said during questioning by the prosecution at his trial.
Foley, 43, has been on unpaid suspension since he was arrested in September 2007 in the slaying of Blairsville dentist Dr. John Yelenic, 39. An Indiana County jury was expected to hear closing arguments and begin deliberating later Wednesday.
Yelenic was found dead on April 13, 2006, a day before he was to sign the final divorce papers from his wife, Michele. The couple's separation was so rancorous that Yelenic's attorney asked a judge to issue a posthumous divorced decree — saying Yelenic would have wanted it. The judge refused, saying she couldn't legally end a marriage that ended with Yelenic's death.
A pathologist found that Yelenic was sliced with a knife and died of blood loss after his head was forced through a window, causing even more cuts.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek contends Foley killed Yelenic while on his way home from playing in a pickup hockey game.
On Wednesday, Krastek questioned Foley about testimony by other troopers who said he talked about wishing for Yelenic's death. One trooper testified that Foley asked for his help to kill Yelenic.
Foley acknowledged that he didn't like Yelenic, but said he was a practical joker and commented in jest.
"Is it funny when you asked ... that you wanted help killing John Yelenic?" Krastek said. "What's so funny about that? Tell me the joke."
"There isn't any joke," Foley replied. "It's just my personality, my behavior."
Under earlier questioning by his defense attorney, Richard Galloway, Foley said he was innocent.
Krastek earlier in the trial introduced testimony that DNA found under Yelenic's fingernails was likely Foley's and that bloody shoe prints at the scene matched a pair Foley was known to wear at the time.
Foley is charged with criminal homicide, meaning the jury must not only determine his guilt or innocence, but also the underlying murder or manslaughter crime he may have committed.
Prosecutors have said they believe Foley is guilty of first-degree murder — premeditated with malice. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence because prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty.