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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. NICHOLAS KARABIN (02/04/81)

decided: February 4, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
NICHOLAS KARABIN, JR., APPELLANT



No. 28 May Term, 1979, Criminal Action - Appeal from the Order of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, No. 1047 of 1978

COUNSEL

Todd J. O'Malley, George V. Lynett, Scranton, for appellant.

Ernest D. Preate, Dist. Atty., for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Nix, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Flaherty

[ 493 Pa. Page 250]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On December 14, 1978 Nicholas Karabin, Jr., having been tried by a jury, was found guilty of murder of the first degree and of recklessly endangering the murder victim's wife. Post-trial motions were denied and sentences of life imprisonment on the murder conviction and one-to-two years on the recklessly endangering conviction were imposed, the sentences to run consecutively. This appeal followed from judgment of sentence on the murder conviction, wherein appellant, seeking a new trial, has advanced fourteen assignments of error in the proceedings below. After a careful review of the record and the briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgment of sentence.

At the time of his arrest, appellant was a thirty-four year old high school teacher of chemistry and biology who also owned and operated a detective and security business. During the 1976-1977 school year appellant was experiencing marital difficulties. He was separated from his wife between April and June of 1977, and after a reconciliation, was separated again in February of 1978. Karabin's wife ultimately obtained a divorce on May 1, 1978. In December of 1977 appellant told his wife that she could not have a divorce and threatened to kill her.

During 1977 and 1978 Karabin engaged in a relationship with Leith Howell, one of his female students, then aged seventeen. Miss Howell lived with Karabin at his residence during May, June and early July of 1977. In July, when Karabin resumed living with his wife, he continued to see his former student friend from time to time. Karabin's wife

[ 493 Pa. Page 251]

    left again in February of 1978; Miss Howell moved back in with him.

Karabin told Miss Howell on or about January 6, 1978 that he wanted to kill his wife, and also told her that he intended to kill other people at random, so that his wife's murder would seem to be the work of a madman, and he would not be a suspect. In mid-February Karabin was upset by divorce proceedings which had been started by his wife, and he again told Miss Howell of his scheme to conduct random killings to divert attention from himself as a suspect in his wife's murder.

On March 17, 1978 Karabin told Miss Howell that he intended to begin the random murders that evening. After driving from Clarks Summit to Scranton with Miss Howell in the car, Karabin drove to a location near the North Scranton Expressway, parked his car, announced that he intended to shoot someone on the expressway, and left the car, armed with a shotgun and wearing a disguise consisting of a trenchcoat, a hat, glasses and a mustache. Shortly after Karabin left the car, Miss Howell heard two blasts from a shotgun. Karabin thereupon returned to the car and told Miss Howell that he had just shot someone from an embankment facing the North Scranton Expressway. As Karabin and Howell drove home, they ...


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