Son of slain West Deer couple given high bond

March 8, 2012 12:01 am

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A district judge on Wednesday set a high bond for the son of a slain West Deer couple after prosecutors called him "a prime suspect" in their deaths six months ago.

James Yeckel Jr., 52, will remain in the Allegheny County Jail on $250,000 bond while county homicide detectives await test results that could allow them to charge Mr. Yeckel in connection with the deaths of his parents, James Sr. and Carol Yeckel, who were found shot to death in their home on West Starz Road on Sept. 8.

Mr. Yeckel has been jailed since shortly thereafter on a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge filed by West Deer police officers who said he had an outburst at their station when a pair of Allegheny County homicide detectives tried to question him, kicking computers and a fingerprint machine.

His bond had been set at $10,000. A preliminary hearing on that charge was postponed Wednesday because the public defender representing him did not have a tape recorder and there was no court reporter present.

It was the ninth such postponement since Mr. Yeckel was arrested because he failed multiple competency evaluations through the jail's behavioral clinic.

Mr. Yeckel, who suffers from bipolar disorder and psychosis, was at large for two days after his parents' bodies were found, but police feared he would flee because he had been known to wander hundreds of miles on foot and disappear into the wilderness for years at a time.

"He is a serious flight risk," Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Evashavik told District Judge Suzanne Blaschak in requesting the high bond.

Homicide detectives have considered Mr. Yeckel a suspect in the slayings but have been unable to charge him. His younger brother, Nicky Yeckel, said Wednesday that he tried to help by speaking to his brother once while he was in jail.

"He wouldn't talk to me," Nicky Yeckel said. "I was trying to get him to open up, but he's very intelligent and he knows what we're trying to do."

Relatives had tried for years to find James Yeckel Jr. help for the mental problems that worried them and alienated him from his family. Nicky Yeckel said he feels as though he has lost a sibling.

"He has no remorse," Mr. Yeckel said. "There's just a darkness there."

Jail, he said, is the best place for his brother.

"He's a threat to society and my family," he said.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:24:07

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