Trial begins for Westwood man charged in his mother's death
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
By Gabrielle Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The trial began yesterday for a 21-year-old Westwood man charged with beating his mother to death with a wooden baseball bat three years ago.
Dressed in a plain white T-shirt and red Allegheny County Jail pants and wearing a buzz cut, Branden S. Rys said yesterday that he was clearheaded and ready to go forward with a nonjury trial even though he'd taken antidepressants and "a lot of other drugs" to treat "mental health problems."
He is charged with using a baseball bat to inflict multiple head wounds to Patricia Bente, 50, at the home where they both lived on Shadyhill Drive in Westwood on Oct. 12, 2006. He later confessed to city police that he struck his mother at least 10 times with the bat — rendering her face unrecognizable to an officer who knew the family — and then fled.
On a tip from the victim's boyfriend, whom Mr. Rys had called and told about the homicide, police arrived at the home and found the door locked. A city officer said he could see the victim's body on the floor.
Two patrolmen forced their way inside and found Ms. Bente lying on her back with a bloodied bat on the floor near her body. She was later pronounced dead.
The prosecution and defense yesterday stipulated to many of the details witnesses would have normally been called to testify about. Deputy District Attorney David Spurgeon told Allegheny County Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski that he plans to seek a first-degree murder conviction.
The trial is set to resume tomorrow when the prosecution plans to call its psychiatric expert to testify about Mr. Rys' mental state at the time of the homicide. A defense expert is expected to say that Mr. Rys did not have the ability to form a "specific intent to kill," which is necessary for a first-degree conviction.
Gabrielle Banks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org