Sons charged with gruesome murder

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) Brain had seeped through a 4-inch gash in his broken skull and the beaten and stabbed body of the mother was left lying in a hallway, naked from the waist down.

Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, the Lehigh County coroner, performed the autopsies on Dennis and Brenda Freeman and their 11-year-old son, Erik, whose bodies were found in their Allentown home on Feb. 27.

The older sons, Bryan, 17, and David, 16, are charged with three counts of murder in the killings of their parents and their young brother.

Their 18-year-old cousin Nelson Birdwell III is charged with hindering their capture when all three fled in the parents' black convertible to Michigan, where they were captured three days later.

The brothers' forehead tattoos ''Berzerker'' and ''Sieg Heil,'' so evident during their arraignment last month, were covered by an inch of hair at Wednesday's preliminary hearing.

Mihalakis testified that Dennis Freeman's blood coated the wall next to his bed, his skull broken open in a gash that allowed his brain to ''mushroom'' outside.

Their brother's head was smashed, and their mother lay on a hallway floor, beaten and stabbed repeatedly.

The weapons were an aluminum baseball bat, a pickax handle, a weight bar from an exercise machine, and a knife, Mihalakis said.

Authorities have said the older boys fought with their parents and rebelled against their Jehovah's Witness religion. They also had problems with alcohol and drugs, and the Freemans had tried institutionalizing the boys.

Birdwell has said Bryan started the blood bath when he snapped over his mother's nagging, said Birdwell's lawyer, Richard Makoul. The lawyer said Bryan grabbed her from behind, clasped his hand over her mouth and stabbed her.

Birdwell told his lawyer he was a mere spectator too frightened by the slaughter to leave his cousins.

During cross-examination Wednesday by Bryan's attorney, public defender Michael Brunnabend, Mihalakis said he was unable to determine if more than one person had beaten Dennis Freeman.

''The amount of splatter on the wall adjacent to the bed showed no breaks in it,'' he said. Someone else ''could have been there and moved away.''

Joshua Wirth, a schoolmate of Bryan and the Freemans' paperboy, testified that Bryan told him shortly before the murders that his parents had sold the brothers' car.

''He said if he had been awake while they sold it, he would have killed them,'' Wirth testified.

Read Next Article