4 to face trial in Lansford stabbing
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Kevin Brandwein of Wilkes-Barre, who also has lived in Lansford, is placed into a police car following hearing yesterday before District Judge Casimir Kosciolek of Lansford. Brandwein is charged with beating and then stabbing Christopher Herman of Lansford on Oct. 20.
Three of four suspects charged in a stabbing incident on Oct. 20 in Lansford had hearings yesterday before District Judge Casimir Kosciolek of Lansford.
Kosciolek advanced all the charges of the individuals to Carbon County Court.
A fourth suspect, who allegedly hit the victim with brass knuckles, waived his hearing.
Bail of all the suspects was retained by Kosciolek at $250,000 straight, despite a motion made to reduce Steve Allen Walck's.
Each is charged with aggravated assault, criminal attempt, and four counts of criminal conspiracy.
The suspects who had hearings are:
• Kevin Marshal Brandwein, 24, has a Wilkes-Barre address but had briefly lived with the victim and his girlfriend. It is alleged he punched the victim, tied him up, and then stabbed him four times.
• Jennifer Catherine Steigerwalt, 34, of 115 E. Snyder Ave., Lansford. She was the girlfriend of the victim and lived with him. It is alleged she also was romantically involved with Brandwein.
Allegedly she arranged to have the victim killed. In exchange, she would give the defendants cocaine.
• Walck, 26, is from Lansford. He allegedly held the feet of the victim while Brandwein tied-up the victim.
Waiving his hearing was Raymond Ziegenfuss III, 17, of Lansford, who allegedly had threatened to punch the victim in the head with brass knuckles. The affidavit says brass knuckles were later recovered from Ziegenfuss.
The victim of the beating and stabbing was Christopher M. Herman, 27, of East Snyder Avenue, Lansford.
According to testimony, he managed to flee his aggressors and ran to the local American Legion Post for help where he knocked on the door and was allowed inside.
Herman was initially transferred to St. Luke's Miners Medical Center in Coaldale, then flown by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township, and placed on life support. He recovered and was discharged after four days, according to testimony.
Herman removed his shirt during the hearing and showed his scars to Kosciolek.
The hearings for Brandwein, Steigerwalt, and Walck were held simultaneously, although Brandwein was not permitted to sit-in on his. Before the hearing began, he erupted into a tirade and Kosciolek had him removed from the hearing room.
Testimony was heard from Herman and from a girl who testified she heard some of the conversation of the defendants prior to the attack.
Herman said he had known Steigerwalt for about five years.
They moved in together in a home on Snyder Avenue on Sept. 2. Brandwein, who was a friend of Steigerwalt and who Herman said he had never met before that day, also was put on the Snyder Avenue lease and moved in with them. Brandwein had offered to pay some of the rent.
Herman was the only one of the three employed. He said he was suspicious of the relationship that Steigerwalt and Brandwein had, but she always assured him that they were just friends.
"Two weeks after the lease was signed, they were hanging out and doing things," Herman said.
He added, "I brought it up to Jen. She said there was nothing to worry about. It was like a brother-sister relationship."
In late September, Herman was allegedly beaten twice, once by Brandwein and another time by Brandwein's sister's boyfriend. Charges are pending against Brandwein in that attack.
Brandwein was committed to Carbon County Prison after that assault, but was later released. Herman said he didn't allow Brandwein back into the residence.
On Oct. 20, Steigerwalt baked a cake for Herman, he said.
"She was a cooker. She loved cooking."
The assault occurred at about 10:25 p.m. that day, police said.
Prior to the assault, at about 6:30 p.m., it is alleged by police that Steigerwalt met with the other three defendants at the home of Walck and offered them cocaine if they would kill Herman.
Steigerwalt returned home that evening. After being home a short time, she went onto the porch, Herman testified. He followed her to the porch and told her, "If you really don't want to be with me and want to be with Kevin, just pack your stuff and move out."
He noticed that Walck, Brandwein, and Ziegenfuss were on the sidewalk and said they heard the entire conversation.
Herman said Steigerwalt assured him she wanted to remain with him.
After they went back inside, Walck knocked on the door twice and asked if things were OK, Herman said. He told the court that he responded, "Everything's fine. I'm going to bed."
He and Steigerwalt laid down on a mattress on the first floor and he fell asleep, he said. Before he fell asleep, he said Steigerwalt went to the basement for some unknown reason.
The affidavit alleges that Steigerwalt opened a basement door so the other defendants could enter the residence.
He awoke and Brandwein was standing over him, at about chest level, and Walck and Ziegenfuss were standing at the foot of the bed.
Brandwein told Herman, according to the testimony, "Keep your mouth shut. It's going to be quick and painless."
Walck was holding Herman's feet.
After Brandwein tied Herman's hands and feet with the same piece of rope, Brandwein picked the victim up, put him over his shoulder, and carried him to the dark basement, according to Walck.
"Kevin's a pretty strong dude," said Herman. "I'm actually terrified of him."
Herman said when he was carried down to the basement, Walck also came down while Ziegenfuss remained upstairs.
A woman who was at Walck's house testified she had not met Ziegenfuss, Steigerwalt, or Brandwein before that day. All were on Walck's porch.
She said she heard Steigerwalt say she would let them in the basement and they would tie him up. The witness also said she told them she wanted no part of whatever they were planning.