Pulaski man pleads guilty to 3 murders

bestep@herald-leader.comApril 15, 2010 

SOMERSET — A man who killed three people in Pulaski County over a span of more than 25 years pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Michael Andrew Abner, 47, of Eubank was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Abner will stay in prison until he dies, Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery said.

Montgomery said Abner was a serial killer who preyed on the elderly.

"His acts are brutal and heinous, speaking to a complete lack of respect for human life," Montgomery said.

Two long-unsolved murders that Abner committed came to light after he was arrested in January for killing Jack Roerink, a General Motors retiree who lived near Abner.

Abner shattered a window to break into Roerink's home during the night, stabbed the elderly man several times and stole items from him, including a rifle, according to court records.

Abner drove his wife's vehicle to Roerink's house, left it there and took Roerink's truck. The vehicle he left behind tied him to the crime.

Investigators said they found Abner hiding under a mobile home.

Abner confessed to killing Roerink, and in a surprising turn, he also told police he had killed two elderly women more than 20 years earlier.

"I think he just wanted to get it off his chest," Montgomery said.

Abner admitted breaking into the home of Mamie Mercer, 80, in October 1983 and strangling her. Police questioned Abner at the time, but they lacked enough evidence to arrest him.

Abner later told a woman who lived with Mercer that he had killed Mercer, but the woman was too scared to tell police, Montgomery said.

Abner also admitted killing Mae Stringer, 87, in December 1988 by strangling her.

Stringer was found dead after a fire in her home. Investigators initially thought Stringer died as a result of the fire, but Abner told police he set the blaze to cover up the murder.

In both cases, Abner stole from the victims, Montgomery said.

Abner provided details about the crimes that no one except the killer would have known. For instance, he said he stole a piece of jewelry from one woman; it wasn't listed as missing on the original case report, but relatives confirmed it was gone, Montgomery said.

Abner would have been eligible for the death penalty, but the victims' families approved a deal for him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The gap of 22 years between murders raised questions about whether Abner killed other people.

Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood said investigators looked into that, even contacting police in other states where Abner had lived during that time. However, Abner denied he was involved in other homicides.

Police found no credible evidence that Abner was involved in other murders, Wood said.

If new information turns up, police will investigate, the sheriff said.

Abner has a lengthy criminal record and was behind bars during part of that 22-year period.

Abner pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder, burglary, robbery and arson. He asked to be sentenced immediately after pleading guilty, and Circuit Judge Jeffrey Burdette did so.

Wood's office investigated the cases, assisted by state police.

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