Connellsville man gets 2-4 years for priest beating

| August 13, 2010

A church business manager accused of beating a Connellsville priest with an ax handle was sentenced Thursday to two to four years in state prison.

Kevin Labuda, 46, of Connellsville declined comment before he was sentenced before Judge Steve Leskinen on charges of burglary and aggravated assault.

Labuda entered guilty pleas to the charges last month as part of a plea bargain.

During his plea hearing, he admitted that he used an ax handle to beat the Rev. Joseph Bonafed, a Monessen native, because Labuda feared he would lose his job with Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church on East Crawford Avenue. Labuda told Connellsville police he wanted Bonafed to leave the church because he was considering the elimination of Labuda's position.

Bonafed did not attend the sentencing hearing. District Attorney Jack Heneks said Bonafed and the investigating police officer agreed to the plea.

"This is an effective resolution of the difficulties this defendant caused both Father Bonafed and the churches he represents," Heneks said.

Police said Labuda told them he used keys he had taken from a nun to enter the church's locked rectory at 9:15 p.m. March 3, where he hid behind a door until Bonafed arrived.

Bonafed, an administrator for three parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, testified during a bond-reduction hearing in March that he was repeatedly struck in the head, with the blows continuing even after he fell to the floor.

During that same hearing, Labuda testified he took a job as business manager for Immaculate Conception and partner parishes St. Rita and St. John the Evangelist in 2008, shortly after he was let go from a seminary school in the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Labuda testified he had been accepted into the seminary to study for the priesthood, but he was asked to leave after less than two weeks because of serious injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.

He said the school advised him they couldn't accommodate his needs, which included temporary use of a wheelchair during his recovery.

Noting that Labuda had sustained a head injury in the accident, Leskinen indicated Labuda could have sought to plead guilty but mentally ill, or mounted an insanity defense.

Labuda's attorney, David Reiss of Connellsville, said his client did not want to pursue either option.

Leskinen accepted Labuda's guilty pleas to charges of criminal trespass, simple assault and reckless endangerment, but did not impose additional jail time.

Bonafed suffered a large bruise on the back of his head and a cut to the front. He was treated in Uniontown Hospital, police said.

 

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