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Criminal Law Keyed to Ohlin
Commonwealth v. Pestinikas
Citation:617 A.2d 1339 (1992)
Joseph Kly, a 92 year old man, arranged for the defendants, Walter and Helen Pestinikas, to be his caregivers. The defendants added their names to his bank accounts and withdrew around $300 per month for several months, which Kly had agreed to pay for his care. Beginning in August 1983 until Kly’s death in November, 1984, however, the defendants withdrew much larger sums in the excess of $30,000 dollars.
On the afternoon of November 15. 1984, police and an ambulance discovered Kly’s dead body, with his ribs and sternum greatly pronounced. An autopsy revealed that he may have been dead for as many as 39 hours before his body was found, and the cause of death was starvation and dehydration.
At trial, the Commonwealth argued that after contracting to provide food, shelter, care and necessary medicine for Kly, the defendants engaged in a course of conduct calculated to deprive Kly of those things necessary to maintain life and thereby cause his death. The trial court instructed the jury that defendants could not be found guilty of a malicious killing for failing to provide food, shelter and necessary medicines to Kly unless a duty to do so had been imposed upon them by contract. They were found guilty of murder in the third degree.
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