Guard in fatal $2M heist claims self-defense
PITTSBURGH – The armored car guard who allegedly absconded with $2.3 million after killing his partner told investigators he shot his fellow guard only after that guard tried to stop the heist, but the physical evidence doesn't support that claim, Pittsburgh's top prosecutor said Thursday.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said authorities believe Kenneth Konias Jr. was driving the Garda Cash Logistics armored car when he opened a door behind the driver's seat and fatally shot his partner, Michael Haines, who was in the middle of the truck's three compartments on Feb. 28 in Pittsburgh.
But while Zappala believes Haines most likely did oppose the heist, he said the physical evidence doesn't support what Zappala considers Konias' self-serving claim that he only shot Haines after Haines aimed a gun at him. Haines was shot in the back of the head, Zappala said.
"I thought it was important for the Haines family to know he was not complicit" in the crime, Zappala said. Investigators have yet to recover Haines' service weapon and may never know, therefore, if he drew it or whether Konias took it.
A team of FBI agents and Pennsylvania investigators have gone to Florida trying to trace Konias' movements prior to his arrest early Tuesday in Pompano Beach, north of Miami.
Zappala did not offer details on reports that Konias confided in a prostitute who then told a male acquaintance about Konias before that person contacted Pittsburgh police late Monday. But Zappala said investigators are very interested in what Konias did, where he spent the money and with whom he interacted during the several weeks they believe he spent in south Florida following the heist.
Although Zappala don't believe Haines or anyone else at Garda was involved, he said investigators aren't yet sure Konias didn't plan the crime with others.
"We still have some questions about other people," he said.
At least $1.1 million has been recovered in Florida along with nearly $300,000 in Pennsylvania. The FBI is still trying to determine if more money is stashed somewhere or Konias spent it all, Zappala said.
It isn't yet clear if Zappala's office or federal prosecutors will handle the case, but either way Konias, 22, could face life in prison or the death penalty.
"Whichever way it goes, our guys will either go with the feds or the feds will come with us" in cooperating with a prosecution," Zappala said.
Phone messages left for the Konias family lawyer and the lawyer for Haines' parents were not immediately returned Thursday.
Zappala says he would want to consult with Haines' family before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty. But he hinted strongly that while it may be legally possible in this case it may make more sense to forgo the death penalty to dispense with the case more quickly.
"I think the community is better served ... by him having his day in court and having him disappear as quickly as possible," Zappala said, noting it could take 18 months for a death penalty case to go to trial, compared to six months if the death penalty was not a factor.
"If we're successful in our case, this guy's never leaving the joint," Zappala said.