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January 5, 1953


Appeal, No. 202, Jan. T., 1952, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Lackawanna County, Oct. T., 1951, No. 10, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Patskin. Judgment and sentence affirmed.


Alphonsus L. Casey, with him Myron A. Pinkus, for appellant.

Carlon M. O'Malley, District Attorney, with him Thomas J. Foley, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 372 Pa. Page 404]


Defendant was found guilty by a jury of first degree murder and the penalty was fixed at death. The killing was a particularly brutal one. Defendant did not take the witness stand, the only defense presented in his behalf was insanity. His arguments for a new trial are based solely on alleged trial errors.

On the evening of May 10, 1951, the headquarters of the Pennsylvania State Police in Blakely Borough, Lackawanna County, received a telephone call from a person identifying himself as Theodore Patskin, a son of the defendant, saying his father had killed his

[ 372 Pa. Page 405]

    mother. A detail of officers rushed to the Patskin farm located in Jefferson Township, Lackawanna County, a farming community, where they found the defendant, who immediately admitted the killing. He directed the officers to the scene of the killing approximately one and one-half miles from the farm home, in an isolated section of the area. There they found the defendant's wife lying dead on the ground with the top of her head bashed in, two lacerated wounds on the chin and one on the neck above the Adam's apple. The post-mortem later revealed a compound fracture of the skull with many small fragments of the bone driven into the brain cavity and a crushed larynx.

The defendant was taken to the State Police Headquarters, where he was questioned about the killing and willingly detailed the gruesome incident and the events leading up to it. He manifested little or no remorse.On the way back to the police barracks defendant in talking with the officers said: "I thought of this for nineteen years. I knew I would get the electric chair for it. I did it. I took her back that road to kill her. The dirty /--. I thought I would have to shoot her but I didn't have to. I don't feel sorry that I killed her. Nineteen years will get you. Poor kids. Poor, three kids."

In his statement at police headquarters, he told how their married life had been a series of arguments, quarrels and separations and that they had quarreled that very day before his wife left home for work. He said that she threatened to leave him again and cause his arrest as she had done before and because of this he killed her.

After being informed of his Constitutional rights he made and signed the following confession:

"Statement of William Patskin, R.D. 3, Lake Ariel, age 44, taken at the Blakely Station, Pennsylvania

[ 372 Pa. Page 406]

State Police, Friday morning, May 11, 1951, in the presence of Corporal David Roberts, Corporal Roger Spence, Private Norman McFadden, Private Paul Capparell, Private Frank Samek, Dr. Kubasko, District Attorney Carlon M. O'Malley, Assistant District Attorneys William J. Kearney and Thomas Foley.

"By Mr. Spence:

"Q. What were you doing in the farm yesterday? A. Loading props with my car, and it was time to go for her at the end of the day. Q. What time is the end of the day? A. When I get through. Q. At the end of the day would be around 5 o'clock? A. Sometimes around 9 or 10 o'clock. Q. I am speaking of yesterday. A. This particular time I made up my mind that my life was finished, I figured I would kill her and kill myself. Q. When you left the farm? A. Yes. Q. And then you met her? A. Yes on the road after she was walking home. Q. And she got in your car? A. Yes. Q. And you drove then? A. Yes, to where I showed you. Q. On the Salem road and you turned in then to the old road to your farm? A. Yes. Q. And then you stopped the car and you started to argue? A. Right. Q. What was the argument about? A. About fixing me some more; she was a woman to fix a man and send him to jail. Q. Did she send you to jail? A. What do you think I killed her for, just because I was crazy or something? Q. I thought you had a reason for it? A. I had many reasons, that is why I killed her. Q. What was that reason? A. Because she was going for me for my arrest and take the family away; that was my chief reason. I figured that was the last arrest she made. I am not a young man any more; I was 44 years old, and I made up my mind that she would not do it any more. You take my work records since I was a boy and you will find I have not a bad work record. Q. You stopped your car yesterday afternoon. It is

[ 372 Pa. Page 407]

    now 3 o'clock. A. According to the clock it is 3:15, another day began."...

"By Mr. O'Malley:

"Q. Yesterday after you picked your wife up and she was through with work you stopped your car and had an argument? A. Yes. Q. And you killed her? A. Yes. Q. How did you kill her? A. Choked her with my right hand. Q. Did you use your left hand too? A. No I can't make good use of it, it was broken and there is no strength to it. Q. You were working with both your hands in your logging business? A. Trying to. I had also broke my foot. I know exactly how I did it; I am not here to lie to you, I am not going to change it; I killed her with my hand. Q. That is the truth, is it? A. That is right, you can see. Q. Did you sign any papers after you murdered her? A. No. Q. After you murdered her? A. No. Q. Take a look at this book; it is a book made by the Agrico Company? A. Yes. Q. You wrote something in it, didn't you? A. Yes, sir. Q. When did you write it? A. After I killed her. Q. Where did you write it? A. Right at the car. Q. Would you mind reading it for us? A. Looks like to whom this may concern. You may think that a murderer is a man or woman who is out his or her mind. That is a mistake. In this particular case a lot of people think that I am a person mentally unbalance is mistaken. I have never been arrested before in my life until I married. I have no brushes with the law and I was a good citizen as any average man, but this particular bitch needed what she got. She not only destroyed my life but she destroyed my children and that is what really hurts and that is what really hurts me most. Please people I fully realize that I have left 3 poor innocent little children who know no difference but I as a so-called beastly murderer does. How my heart aches for these poor little children, but according

[ 372 Pa. Page 408]

    to my beastly wife the law says a man is only a mule. He must abide by the laws of what a woman says. Kindly be advised that what a man says before he commits a so-called murder that he is not insane. He merely went what a normal human mind can stand, yet our filthy laws says that a man is guilty. Q. You left that after you killed your wife, is that right? A. Yes. Q. You didn't choke your wife? A. Oh, yes, I did. Q. You hit her over the head. A. That was after to make sure she would not suffer. Q. What did you hit her with? A. With the hatchet, with the back of the hatchet. Q. You also hit her in the front of her face while she was on the ground. A. I choked her and as I did she turned blue black, and then spoke to her that it was the last time you had your laws at me to arrest me. Of course we were having a lot of struggles even before this time. I really didn't have in mind to kill her but what I had in mind was to reason with her but she refused; she turned for the law. Q. Is this the hatchet that you hit her with? A. That is the one, with the back end. Q. The State policeman is showing you the hatchet. A. That is the hatchet I hit her with, I tapped her with that. Q. You tapped her with the hatchet? A. That is right. Q. On the top of her head? A. Yes. Q. With the back end of the hatchet? A. Yes, sir, that is right, just that she should not suffer. Q. This was after you strangled her? A. Yes, I heard her gurgle, and why let the woman suffer when you see she is almost dead. Q. How many ...

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