Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 1, 2012

Agent: Biederman wished wife dead

Mike James
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — Thomas Biederman told his son in a recorded telephone conversation he wished his wife, Janie, would have been killed by the bomb that exploded in her car on July 28, 2011, a federal agent testified Wednesday.

“This is the first time I’ve wished this — I wish your mom had been killed by the bomb,” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agent Ron Sabotchick quoted Biederman as saying.

According to Sabotchick, Biederman’s son, Ryan, then cautioned his father about making such comments on the phone, but Biederman continued: “I’m just saying if she had been, I wouldn’t have all these problems. I don’t know why she’s doing this.”

In other conversations with his son, Biederman complained his wife “ruined” his real estate appraisal business with her spending habits and made derogatory comments about her weight and regarding the lack of intimacy in their marriage, Sabotchick said. He also told Ryan Biederman the only way he would ever consider going back to his wife would be if she would agree to never see her brother, Jim Riggs, and his wife, Holly, again, he said.

Neither Sabotchick nor Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Greer said where the conversations were recorded. However, Greer did say they were recorded between Jan. 18 and March of this year, a period during which Thomas Biederman would have been in the Boyd County Detention Center.

Sabotchick was the lead investigator in the car bombing, which occurred in the parking garage of the Ashland Skytower. His testimony came on Day Six of Biederman’s trial in Boyd Circuit Court.

Biederman, 52, of Russell, is charged with attempted murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. Each of those charges carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.

Prosectors have alleged Biederman tried to kill his wife for financial gain. Greer told jurors in his opening remarks that Biederman stood to collect $430,000 in insurance money had Janie Biederman perished in the blast. She suffered only minor injuries.

Sabotchick — whose testimony took up most of the day Wednesday and who will be back on the witness stand when the trial resumes at 8:45 a.m. today — also told jurors it became “crystal clear” to him shortly after the explosion that Janie Biederman’s non-functioning key fob remote was a key piece of evidence in the crime. He said he learned the night of the bombing the remote — which is used to lock and unlock the car’s doors and also causes its lights to flash — had just recently quit working and “it set off bells in my head that this was probably more than a coincidence.”

Sabotchick collected the remote and sent it to the ATF crime lab to be examined. That examination revealed someone had disabled the remote by removing the battery and placing it in the device backwards. Authorities believe that was done to keep Janie Biederman from setting off the bomb, which was wired into the car’s left brake light, before she was in the vehicle.

Sabotchick said Ryan Biederman told him he had driven the Mustang two days before the bombing and the remote was working fine then. He also said Thomas Biederman said he wasn’t aware the remote wasn’t working until after the bombing.

Thomas Biederman was “cooperative, but controlling” during the initial phase of the investigation, Sabotchick said. However, he said the relationship between him and Biederman quickly turned “adversarial” after he made clear he considered Biederman the prime suspect in the bombing.

Sabotchick said he offered protection to Janie Biederman, as he was required to do by federal law, but she declined it.

The agent also said he checked out all of the suspects whose names Biederman provided him. All were cooperative and were cleared of any involvement in the bombing, he said.

Attempts also were made to follow up on a witness report that two men traveling in a green Chevrolet Cavalier were seen lurking around the parking garage in the vicinity of Janie Biederman’s vehicle several hours before the blast, but those also failed to pan out, he said.

During his cross-examination, Biederman’s attorney, Michael Curtis, grilled Sabotchick regarding items that were seized from a storage shed at the Biederman’s home about a week after the bombing. He focused on a container of PVC cement, which Michelle Evans, an ATF forensic chemist, had testified earlier had a different chemical composition than the adhesive that was used on the bomb, which was made from PVC tubing, black powder and other household items.

Sabotchick said there were at least 15 other containers of glue in the shed when he searched it. Asked by Curtis why he didn’t seize all of them, Sabotchick acknowledged he probably should have.

“I guess I could have seized all 10,000 pieces that were in that shed, but I only took what I thought would be useful,” he said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.