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Hearing held for murder of mother and baby

November 20, 2010

Waide Eugene Nolf, accused of murder in the deaths of a Bradford woman and her baby, is led Thursday into the McKean County Courthouse for the first phase of a suppression of evidence hearing. Attorney Ray Learn is seeking the death penalty in the case. Photo by Ted Lutz.

SMETHPORT -- A hearing on the suppression of evidence against murder defendant Waide Eugene Nolf opened Thursday afternoon in McKean County Court.
Nolf is charged with the March murders of Tonya M. Haight, 24, and her 22-day-old baby, Tamara N. Haight. The defendant and the victims shared the same residence at 56 Pleasant St., Bradford, with five others.
McKean County District Attorney Ray Learn, who is seeking the death penalty, called three witnesses at the 90-minute hearing Thursday before County President Judge John Pavlock.
The suppression hearing was requested by Mike Marshall and Gary Knaresboro, DuBois attorneys who have been appointed by the court to represent Nolf.
The attorneys previously filed a "notice of defense by insanity or mental infirmity" and have court permission to hire a psychologist and a psychiatrist to evaluate their client. Learn also plans to have his own expert evaluate Nolf.
Judge Pavlock said the "mental health" testimony portion of the suppression hearing would take place Jan. 26 at what he said could be an "all-day" court proceeding.
Learn's witnesses Thursday included Christopher Lucco, police chief in Bradford and a patrol officer at the time of the March 19 murders; Brian Zeybel, a state police trooper in Warren and a criminal investigator; and state police Corporal Mark Russo of Erie, a criminal investigator.
Zeybel and Russo conducted a polygraph test for Nolf and followed that with a lengthy interrogation, during which the defendant allegedly confessed to the murders. The test and interview lasted nine hours and was captured on video and audiotape. Learn entered a copy of the tape into the court record. Judge Pavlock said he would "view the whole thing."
Although Nolf was not in police custody at the time of the polygraph test and subsequent interview, Lucco said the defendant was considered a "person of interest" in the murders.
According to Lucco, Nolf was in this category because the defendant lived at the house where the murders took place and there was no sign of a forced entry. Lucco said police believed a male committed the murders "due to the violent nature" of the deaths. Both victims drowned in a bathtub, according to the autopsies performed by McKean County Coroner Michael Cahill of Bradford. The mother also had blunt force trauma, lacerations and abrasions.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 20 edition of The Daily Press.

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