De­fense moves to block life term for mom killer

Bryan Free­man awaits re­sen­tenc­ing in 1995 fam­ily murder spree.

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Lau­rie Ma­son Schroeder

Prose­cu­tors hired two men­tal health ex­perts to ex­am­ine Bryan R. Free­man, a for­mer teen neo­Nazi from Sal­is­bury Town­ship who ad­mit­ted tak­ing part in a grue­some triple murder that stunned the Le­high Val­ley 24 years ago.

One doc­tor said Free­man, who was 17 when he was sen­tenced to life in prison for stab­bing his mother to death, re­mains in­cor­ri­gi­ble. The sec­ond doc­tor opined that Free­man can be re­deemed.

That dis­par­ity, ar­gued de­fense at­tor­ney Karl D. Schwartz, should dis­qual­ify prose­cu­tors from seek­ing a life prison term for Free­man, who is await­ing re­sen­tenc­ing un­der a land­mark U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion that banned au­to­matic life sen­tences for ju­ve­nile killers.

“When is it safe and ap­pro­pri­ate to re­lease this man into the com­mu­nity, should be the only ques­tion,” Schwartz said.

Free­man was in Le­high County Court on Fri­day for a hear­ing in ad­vance of his re­sen­tenc­ing, which will oc­cur some­time in 2019.

Prose­cu­tors are ar­gu­ing that Free­man, who was con­victed along with his brother David Free­man, should re­main be­hind bars for the rest of his life.

First As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Steven M. Luksa told Judge Maria L Dan­tos Fri­day that his ex­perts' dif­fer­ing opin­ions should not dis­qual­ify him from ar­gu­ing for a life sen­tence for Free­man. Luksa said other fac­tors, in­clud­ing the im­pact of the crime on the vic­tims and com­mu­nity, can still ad­vance that po­si­tion.

Schwartz dis­agreed, say­ing the law re­quires prose­cu­tors to ig­nore any com­mu­nity out­cry.

“The only de­ci­sion is not whether, but when … he should be re­leased from prison,” he said.

Dan­tos said she will rule on the mo­tion at a later date.

Free­man, now 41, ad­mit­ted stab­bing Brenda Free­man to death in a Feb. 26, 1995, killing spree in the fam­ily's Ehrets Lane home. His brother, David Free­man, then 16, ad­mit­ted blud­geon­ing his father, Den­nis Free­man. The broth­ers' cousin, Nel­son “Ben” Bird­well III, then 18, also was con­victed of murder.

The Free­man broth­ers are among dozens of for­mer ju­ve­nile “lif­ers” be­ing re­sen­tenced for their crimes un­der a 2012 Supreme Court de­ci­sion that ruled au­to­matic life sen­tences for ju­ve­nile killers to be cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment.

David Free­man will be in Le­high County Court for a hear­ing on Jan. 28.

The killings at the Free­man home oc­curred af­ter weeks of ar­gu­ments be­tween the broth­ers and their par­ents. Bryan and David Free­man dressed and acted like skin­heads, sport­ing fa­cial tat­toos of the phrases “Sieg Heil” and “Berserker.”

The broth­ers pleaded guilty to the killings in De­cem­ber 1995. Bryan Free­man ad­mit­ted he grabbed his mother as she came down the stairs, stuffed a pair of shorts in her mouth and stabbed her re­peat­edly.

David Free­man pleaded guilty to beat­ing his father, Den­nis Free­man, to death with an alu­minum base­ball bat and metal ex­er­cise bar as he lay asleep in bed. A jury found that Bird­well took part in the father's killing.

The Free­mans' younger brother, 11-year-old Erik, also was killed, although none of the three ever ad­mit­ted to or was con­victed of his murder.

Bryan Free­man did not speak in court Fri­day. His hair was combed down to cover a tat­too on his fore­head.

MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

Bryan Free­man

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