PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New Jersey landscaper Colin Abbott entered a surprise “no contest” plea in Butler Tuesday, he’s charged with third degree murder in the 2011 deaths of his father, Kenneth and his stepmother, Celeste.
His plea means there will be no trial, and he’ll be sentenced Wednesday.
Prosecutors are seeking a prison term from 35 to 80 years.
Abbott family friend Michael Bencic told KDKA-TV Tuesday that he was shocked by the no contest plea.
“Honestly yes, I am shocked,” Bencic said. “I guess I thought it would probably go to trial.”
Now, because of the plea, Abbott will not have to face the death penalty. Prosecutors are recommending to a judge a prison sentence of up to 80 years for 42-year-old Abbott.
The plea bargain came days before the jury selection was about to start.
“I guess as an outsider, I think the longer it went on and the more prolonged it was, was probably harder on the families,” Bencic said.
Investigators said the motive for the double murder was the younger Abbott’s greed. It was described as a gruesome murder, with Abbott allegedly dismembering the victims’ bodies and scattering them throughout the family’s estate in Brady Township.
He had earlier told relatives that his father and stepmother died in a fiery car crash in New Jersey.
Bencic says relatives of the murdered couple are expected to be in court Wednesday morning for the sentencing.