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Rebecca Anne OLENCHOCK





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - She told police that she was trying to save enough money for an apartment, but her mother, who was unemployed, kept spending it
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 17, 2010
Date of arrest: 2 days later
Date of birth: March 12, 1986
Victim profile: Kimberly Venose, 44 (her mother)
Method of murder: Beat her mother with a baseball bat and then poured kerosene around her and lit it
Location: Bristol Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Found guilty but mentally ill. Sentenced to life in prison without parole on October 12, 2011
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Daughter sentenced for killing mom

By Laurie Mason Schroeder -

October 13, 2011

Rebecca Olenchock, the homeless waitress convicted of killing her mother in the crude shack they shared behind a Bristol Township supermarket last year, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole.

Bucks County Judge Albert Cepparulo, who found Olenchock guilty of first-degree murder and other crimes in June following a non-jury trial, took the unusual step of changing his verdict and finding Olenchock guilty but mentally ill.

The designation will not change the amount of time Olenchock, 25, will serve, but will ensure she receives therapy and other services while behind bars.

Cepparulo also sentenced Olenchock to 12½ to 25 years for arson and possessing an instrument of crime. The separate sentence, which the judge ruled will be served concurrently with her life term, means Olenchock will remain behind bars for at least 12½ years, even if she successfully appeals her conviction.

“I’m satisfied beyond any doubt with my verdict, because there was premeditation on your part,” the judge told Olenchock. “Your actions on that day were, beyond any doubt, homicidal.”

The murder occurred on Oct. 17, 2010, in a homeless encampment behind the Pathmark on Durham Road. The judge concluded that Olenchock beat her mother, Kimberly Venose, 44, with a baseball bat and then poured kerosene around her as she lay unconscious inside the plywood and tarpaper hut they’d lived in for two years.

After igniting the kerosene, Olenchock snapped a padlock on the shack’s door, trapping Venose inside, and drove away.

Her clothes ablaze, Venose broke through a wall of the flaming shack a short time later and stumbled toward the road, crying for help. Before she succumbed to heart failure, she told a paramedic that her daughter had tried to kill her.

Police found Olenchock in Johnson City, Tenn., several days later, driving with a man whom she’d met on the Internet.

She later told police that she killed her mother because she wanted a new life, but that Venose refused to leave the woods.

Olenchock worked as a waitress at the Fairless Hills IHOP, saving her tips to buy the used car in which she eventually fled. She told police that she was trying to save enough money for an apartment, but her mother, who was unemployed, kept spending it.

Cepparulo found Olenchock guilty following a three-day trial. He rejected a defense argument that the extreme conditions of homelessness led to the slaying, a finding that could have resulted in a third-degree murder verdict or a manslaughter verdict.

Witnesses testified that the homeless camp was often overrun with rodents and insects, and that the mother and daughter endured extreme weather conditions without electricity or running water.

The judge agreed to recommend that Olenchock serve her sentence at the state correctional facility for women in Muncy. He made the recommendation after hearing from homeless advocate Marlene Ritter, who told the judge that she had located a church ministry group that promised to visit Olenchock.

Cepparulo praised Ritter who, along with other homeless advocates from the Church of Living Hope in Langhorne, have visited Olenchock in prison weekly since her arrest.

“It’s extraordinary, your level of commitment. There are many people who are sentenced by this court who do not have that level of commitment from blood relatives,” the judge said.

Olenchock didn’t speak during the hearing, and refused to comment as she left the courtroom.

Her attorney, senior public defender Joseph Haag, said an appeal is “a possibility.”

Daniel Sweeney, the chief deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said Olenchock deserved the life sentence.

“Her actions that day were as violent as they were inexplicable. If she wanted a new life so badly, she could have just left,” Sweeney said.


Daughter guilty in fatal clubbing, burning

By Larry King -

June 9, 2011

Why didn't she just leave?

The question lingered, without an answer, long after Rebecca Olenchock was led away in handcuffs Wednesday, convicted of the first-degree murder of her mother.

Olenchock, 25, and 44-year-old Kimberly Venose shared a close but complicated relationship as they lived, homeless, in a hut for two years in the woods of lower Bucks County.

By all accounts, Olenchock was working hard to pay bills and save, determined to free herself of that existence.

And there was little dispute she felt slowed by Venose, her jobless mother, who lived off Olenchock and resisted her wishes to move.

On the morning of Oct. 17, Olenchock fleetingly freed herself in violent fashion.

She awakened early in the hut, near I-95 in Bristol. After texting an online boyfriend in Tennessee, Olenchock sat on her bed, contemplated her frustrating life, and grabbed a baseball bat, she told police.

Through tears that blurred her vision, Olenchock repeatedly clubbed her sleeping mother, who awakened, cursed her, and cried for help before falling still.

Thinking Venose was dead, Olenchock set a fire at the foot of her mother's bed, locked the door of the hut behind her, and drove off to the Tennessee apartment of her online friend.

"I wanted a new life, and I wanted to take her with me, but she wouldn't go," Olenchock told detectives who had tracked her down in Johnson City, Tenn.

The flames roused Venose, who got out of the hut. But she soon died of heart failure brought on by the blows and burns over much of her body.

Reciting those facts, Bucks County Judge Albert J. Cepparulo convicted Olenchock of first-degree murder, ending a three-day trial. He also found her guilty of arson and possession of instruments of crime.

"The evidence in this case was overwhelming," he said.

Defense attorney Joseph Haag argued that the killing had been an outburst caused by pressures mounting on Olenchock for weeks.

Venose had recently lost her spousal support, forcing Olenchock to work harder. Venose feared moving would expose her to an arrest warrant for a probation violation from a shoplifting conviction. And over the previous nine days, she had blown more than $500 of her daughter's savings on nonessentials, Haag said.

"What she carried with her the entire time she was in the woods was the burden of trying to get out," Haag said. The night before the slaying, Venose "threatened to kill Ms. Olenchock if she went to Tennessee," she added.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sweeney countered that Olenchock had not acted spontaneously and had rejected options short of murder.

"The choice wasn't staying or killing [her] mom," Sweeney said. "She could have done other things. She chose not to."

Cepparulo did not set a sentencing date, although state law requires a life term for the murder. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

Debra McCormick, the victim's sister, met briefly after the verdict with Olenchock, her niece. She and Venose had been estranged until a few months before her death.

"The main question has always been: Why didn't she just leave?" she said.

She said Olenchock had offered no answer.

"The only thing we did was to hold each other, to hug and cry, and pray together."


Daughter to spend life in prison for homeless mom's slaying

By Laurie Mason Schroeder -

June 8, 2011

After beating her mother with a baseball bat and setting the crude wooden shack they lived in on fire, Rebecca Olenchock snapped a padlock on the structure’s makeshift door, trapping Kimberly Venose inside.

It was this final action, which Olenchock took before fleeing to Tennessee to start a new life with a man she met on the Internet, which convinced Bucks County Judge Albert Cepparulo that she was guilty of premeditated first-degree murder.

“The locking of the hut was further evidence of this defendant’s intent to take her mother’s life,” Cepparulo said. “There can be no other suggestion from this action.”

The verdict, which Cepparulo handed down Wednesday following a three-day, non-jury trial in Doylestown, carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

Olenchock, 25, was also convicted of arson and possessing an instrument of crime, and could receive additional sentences on those counts.

She sobbed softly as Cepparulo listed his reasons for the verdict.

The judge rejected defense arguments that the slaying was committed under the duress of homelessness, a finding that could have resulted in a voluntary manslaughter or third-degree murder finding.

Venose’s sister, Debra McCormick, said the verdict brought little closure to the family.

“What she did was horrifically, absolutely terrible. Words can’t even describe. And it did not have to be. If she wanted a life of her own, she could have just left.”

Venose, 44, died from heart failure after crawling out of the burning shack on the morning of Oct. 17.

Rolling around on the ground in pain, she told a firefighter: “My daughter is trying to kill me.”

Olenchock would later confess to police that she hit her mom in the head with a baseball bat “10 to 15 times” before setting her mattress on fire and fleeing the scene.

The crime occurred the night after the two women had an argument over Olenchock’s plan to move in with a man she’d met through an online dating site.

Olenchock and Venose had been living without electricity or running water in the “tent city” homeless camp behind the Pathmark in Bristol Township for two years, enduring weather extremes and rat attacks.

Olenchock, who worked as a waitress at the Fairless Hills IHOP, had saved up enough to buy a used car and was trying to gather money for an apartment.

She told police that Venose refused to leave the camp because she feared she’d be thrown in jail. Court records show that Venose was wanted on shoplifting charges, and had been court ordered to get mental health treatment.

Olenchock’s lawyers showed the judge receipts documenting how Venose had spent nearly $700 of the waitressing money her daughter had banked for a rent deposit, using a debit card to purchase fast food and items such as Halloween decorations.

When Olenchock threatened to go to Tennessee without her, Venose said that she’d send members of the Breed outlaw motorcycle club to kill her and her new boyfriend, Olenchock told police.

These were the things on her mind when she woke up next to her mother inside the shack the day of the slaying.

“I wanted a new life and I wanted to take her with me, but she wouldn’t go,” Olenchock would later tell police.

She said she looked at the baseball bat she kept near her bed and came up with the plan.

“I thought, if I stayed here in the woods, my life would be wasted, too,’’ she told police.

Olenchock admitted that after bludgeoning Venose, she went outside the shack, took off her clothes and burned them in the firepit the women used for cooking.

She then gathered up her belongings and loaded them into her car before going back into the shack and pouring kerosene at the foot of her mother’s bed and setting it ablaze.

She was arrested several days later in Johnson City, Tenn., driving with her boyfriend.

He told police that he didn’t know anything about the murder, and that Olenchock had claimed that her mother had died two weeks before in a hospital.

In his closing statement, Olenchock’s attorney, public defender Joseph Haag, asked the judge to consider the pressure his client was under. She had to support both herself and her mother, who did not work due to health problems, all while enduring their squalid living conditions.

“All the pressure of getting out of homelessness was put on my client,” Haag said. “This camp, it wasn’t a place similar to a camping expedition where you can just get in your car and go home when it rains. This was home.”

Prosecutor Daniel Sweeney countered that no matter how desperate Olenchock was, she didn’t have to resort to murder.

“Maybe Kim Venose wasn’t the best mother. Maybe she was even a drag on her daughter. But that did not give her the right to bludgeon her with a baseball bat over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.”

Olenchock didn’t speak as she left the courtroom. Before she was taken to prison, she was permitted a private meeting with her aunt.

McCormick said she held her niece and they wept and prayed together.

McCormick said she offered to remain in contact with Olenchock, and visit her in prison.

Venose had not been in close contact with her sister for nearly a decade, but had visited McCormick’s home near Wilkes-Barre shortly before the killing. Family members said there was talk of the women getting an apartment in that area, although Venose didn’t follow up with a landlord who offered to rent to them.

McCormick described her sister as “fun” and “full of life.” She noted that Venose decorated the campsite.

“She was very smart, very talented. Even though she lost her home she wasn’t homeless because she even made the homeless camp like a home.”

McCormick said the verdict was fair, and hopes that Olenchock will someday confess fully about the slaying.

“I don’t know if at some point Becky will get to that point and tell us,” she said, weeping. “I love my niece. I loved my sister."


Life in homeless camp detailed at murder trial

By Laurie Mason Schroeder -

June 8, 2011

Despite living in a plywood shack with no electricity or running water, Rebecca Olenchock held down a full-time waitress job and tried to save money.

Her mother, Kimberly Venose, had numerous medical problems and didn’t work, but received some money in spousal support. When she found out that her divorce had been finalized and that those checks would soon stop, Venose became more dependent on her daughter, a homeless advocate said Tuesday.

“She said Becky would have to work longer and harder to get them out of the woods,” said Marlene Ritter, a volunteer from Langhorne Terrace Ministries.

Ritter testified for the defense during day two of Olenchock’s homicide trial in Bucks County Court in Doylestown.

Prosecutor Daniel Sweeney said Olenchock, 25, bludgeoned her mother with a baseball bat then drenched her with kerosene and set her on fire before fleeing to Tennessee to move in with a boyfriend she met on the Internet.

Defense lawyers concede that Olenchock committed the crime, but are expected to argue that the slaying was not premeditated murder.

“These tragic events were set in motion in the months preceding,” said public defender Joseph Haag.

Haag said numerous “stressors,” including the deplorable conditions Olenchock and her mother lived in for two years, and arguments they had over how to get out of their situation, led to the slaying.

County Judge Albert Cepparulo, who is deciding the case without a jury at Olenchock’s request, is expected to deliver a verdict this morning.

In court Tuesday, Ritter testified that she and her husband drove Olenchock back and forth to her job at the IHOP in Fairless Hills. She said she checked in with the women several times a week, and saw firsthand how primitive their living conditions were.

Olenchock and Venose, 44, lived near other homeless people in an encampment behind the Pathmark store on Durham Road in Bristol Township.

The wooden shack that the women slept in was covered with plastic tarps, but when heavy rains fell the inside would fill with water, drenching their clothes and mattresses.

Inside the shack on summer nights it often became so hot the women couldn’t breathe. Ritter helped them get a tent so they could drag their mattresses outside to escape the heat.

Insects and vermin were everywhere. Ritter described sitting with Venose outside the shack at a cast-off picnic table the homeless women had dragged from a Dumpster. Rats began to appear, looking for food, forcing Ritter to pull up her legs.

“There were raccoons, mice, rats, snakes, mosquitoes, gnats, flies, bees, hornets...,” Ritter said.

The women went to the bathroom in the woods and washed with bottled water, which was donated by the supermarket. Olenchock bought all their food, and brought her mother meals from the pancake house.

“Every night when she left work, she had a bag of food for her mother,” Ritter said.

Ritter said she never saw the women argue.

“They were more like two sisters who would finish each other’s sentences,” she said.

But others witnesses spoke of a growing tension between the women.

Family members said that Venose didn’t follow up on plans to find an apartment, and refused to live in the Red Cross homeless shelter.

“She was certainly a candidate to get in there, but she did not want to go,” said homeless advocate Sandra Mullican.

Olenchock had asked Mullican to help her save some of the money she earned waitressing. She didn’t want to keep it in the shack, because it had “gone missing” before.

Mullican arranged for Olenchock to keep her cash in a church safe. In four months, she’d saved $3,000, enough to buy a used 2000 Kia sedan.

It was in that car, police say, that Olenchock drove to Johnson City, Tenn., after the slaying. Her boyfriend, Mark Kendall, testified that he didn’t know anything about the alleged murder until police approached him and Olenchock as they were driving to a Tennessee welfare office.

Two weeks before, Kendall testified, Olenchock had text messaged him with sad news. Her mother had died of a heart attack, she told him.

He told the judge that Olenchock complained of having to rush around before work, making funeral arrangements.

“She didn’t really talk about what happened,” Kendall, 38, testified. “She seemed aggravated. Pissed off.”

When Olenchock arrived at his home on Oct. 17, her mood had brightened.

“She was joyful. Just excited to be there,” Kendall said.

Olenchock has not testified, but could take the stand this morning.

If she’s found guilty of first- or second-degree murder, Olenchock will be sentenced to life in prison. A verdict of third-degree murder or manslaughter will mean a shorter sentence. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.


Bucks County woman standing trial in mother's death

By Larry King -

June 7, 2011

For two years they shared a tarp-walled hut in a wooded homeless camp in Bristol Township - mother and daughter, seemingly devoted to each other.

Kimberly Venose, 44, was unemployed, hobbled by medical problems.

Her daughter, Rebecca Olenchock, worked long hours in a nearby pancake house, scraping together enough cash to buy a car, pay for essentials, and set a little aside for her dreams of someday.

But, authorities say, Olenchock grew impatient for her new life to start, and was willing to kill her mother to get it.

Olenchock, 25, went on trial Monday in Bucks County Court, accused of bludgeoning her sleeping mother's head with a baseball bat on a Sunday morning last fall.

Authorities say Olenchock burned her bloody clothes in the fire pit of their camp behind the Bristol Pathmark store, doused her mother with kerosene, and set her ablaze, padlocking a makeshift door as she fled.

Then Olenchock, who had no driver's license, roared off to Johnson City, Tenn., in the green, 2000 Kia sedan she had purchased. She drove so fast to join the boyfriend she had met on the Internet that she got pulled over for speeding in Virginia, forcing her beau to come fetch her.

When she arrived in Tennessee that night, Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sweeney said Monday in his opening statement, it was "with her birth certificate, her Social Security card, and the car . . . ready to begin her new life."

But Kimberly Venose somehow managed to escape that locked, burning hut. Volunteer firefighters, summoned to what they thought was a brush fire, found her moaning in a patch of burning weeds beside the hut, her clothes still aflame, begging for help.

When volunteer firefighter Ryan Cummings asked her what had happened, Venose responded, "My daughter [is] trying to kill me," Cummings testified.

Minutes after that statement, Sweeney said, "her heart gave out." Venose died of cardiac arrest.

Olenchock faces homicide, arson, and other charges. She has chosen not to have a jury trial, leaving her fate in the hands of Judge Albert J. Cepparulo. Cepparulo said he expected testimony to conclude late Tuesday or Wednesday.

Detectives tracked Olenchock through her cellphone, obtaining a court order to "ping" the location of her phone in Tennessee.

Two days after the Oct. 17 slaying, Bucks County Detective David Kemmerer and Bristol Township Detective Jack Slattery eased their rented car beside a white Mazda Miata convertible in a Johnson City parking lot, Kemmerer testified. Inside, he said, sat Olenchock and her new boyfriend.

Olenchock first tried to pin the killing on a large African American man who she said "looked like Mr. Clean" and forced her at gunpoint to beat her mother with the bat, Kemmerer said.

But when the detective confronted Olenchock with her mother's dying statement, asking her to "show some remorse," she confessed, Kemmerer testified.

"We may never have heard those words but for Kim Venose's extraordinary efforts to save her own life," Sweeney said.

In her handwritten confession, Olenchock complained that her mother had refused to move with her to Tennessee and had stolen large sums of her savings to buy drugs. She said her mother was associated with a motorcycle gang and feared retaliation if she left.

The slaying mystified area advocates for the homeless, Kemmerer said, who described the mother-daughter relationship "as being very loving and caring."

Tom Smith, a friend who said Venose sometimes babysat his 5-year-old son, described a lighthearted supper with the pair the night before the killing at a nearby Friendly's restaurant. Smith testified that he was struck by Olenchock's free spending, saying she had urged her mother "to order anything she wanted."

During the meal, Smith said, Olenchock "was on the phone, texting all night."

And when they parted, Smith said, Olenchock made what he took to be a casual remark at the time.

The women needed to stop on the way back to camp, she told him. They needed more kerosene.


Bucks homeless homicide trial starts

By Larry King -

June 6, 2011

A homeless woman accused of fatally beating and setting her mother on fire in the wooded camp they shared in Bristol went on trial today in Bucks County Court.

Rebecca Olenchock, 25, faces homicide, arson and other charges in the Oct. 17 death of 44-year-old Kimberly Venose.

Prosecutors say Olenchock beat her mother 10 to 15 times with a baseball bat as she slept inside their hut near I-95, then spread kerosene on her bed and lit it. Olenchock then locked the makeshift door, hopped in a car and "left for a new life in Tennessee," Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sweeney said, driving all day to join a new boyfriend she had met on the Internet.

Her skull fractured and her clothing in flames, Venose managed to free herself from the burning hut. Arriving firefighters, summoned to the plume of black smoke behind a strip shopping center, found her moaning in the weeds beside the hut, her clothing still on fire.

"My daughter (is) trying to kill me," she told one rescuer before lapsing into cardiac arrest, according to testimony today.

Detectives caught up with Olenchock two days later in Johnson City, Tenn., having tracked her through her cellphone use.

She first said that a large, African American man had killed her mother, testified Lt. David Kemmerer, a Bucks County detective. When confronted with her mother's dying statement, Kemmerer said, Olenchock changed her story, saying the man had held a gun to her head and forced her to club her mother.

After further questioning, Kemmerer said, Olenchock confessed that she had killed her mother because she felt trapped. She said that Venose repeatedly refused to move from the homeless camp where they had lived together for two years.

Olenchock accused her mother of stealing money she had been trying to save from a waitressing job to find them a permanent home.

"We may never have heard these words but for Kimberly Venose's extraordinary efforts to save her own life," Sweeney told Judge Albert J. Cepparulo, who is hearing the case without a jury.

Olenchock's attorneys chose not to give an opening statement until her defense begins. The trial is expected to last two to three days.



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