The Murder of John Yelenic

On April 13, 2006, neighbors found Dr. John Yelenic in his Blairsville, Pennsylvania home. Former Pennsylvania State Trooper, Kevin Foley, slashed him with a knife several times. Foley had forced his head through a small window, which cut his throat, causing him to bleed out.

Dr. John Yelenic

John Yelenic, 39, was a dentist living in Blairsville, PA, a small town located east of Pittsburgh. He was married to Michelle Yelenic, 36, and had three children. They had been separated since 2002 and were at the end of very bitter divorce proceedings.

The Murder

On the afternoon of April 13, 2006, a boy who lived next door discovered the crime scene of John Yelenic. The boy noticed blood on the door and peeked through the house windows, where he noticed an extreme amount of blood throughout the room. He rushed next door to inform his mother.

When police entered Yelenic’s home, they discovered bloody shoe prints, blood cast off on the walls, floors and furniture. Yelenic’s body was lying on the floor with a blood pool around his body. He was clothed and barefoot. They found multiple lacerations and stab wounds on the top of Yalenic’s head, face, neck, right arm, and stomach area. His head was nearly decapitated. The room contained obvious signs of a struggle, including broken glass from one of the room’s small windows.

The Investigation

From the beginning of the investigation, detectives surmised that the murder had entered the Yelenic home through an unlocked back door, as there were no signs of forced entry or robbery. Investigators traced bloody shoe prints through the inside of the house and exiting the back door. The crime scene was immediately closed to any non-essential personnel. Forensics photographed the soles of shoes of people who entered the scene. Blairsville, PA Police Officer Jill Gaston, contacted the FBI in Pittsburgh to help process the crime scene. Not long after the investigation was underway, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office became involved.

The medical examiner recovered DNA from underneath Yelenic’s fingernails. There was also a very small amount of DNA at the scene that did not match Yelenic. Detectives spoke with neighborhood residents. Several people suggested one name: Kevin Foley, the boyfriend of Yelenic’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Michelle Yelenic. Foley was employed as a homicide investigator with the Pennsylvania State Police and was stationed at the Indiana County Pennsylvania State Police Barracks.

What Investigators Learned

Over the two years of separation, tensions had been high between John, Michelle, and Kevin. At one point, Michelle had accused John of abusing one of their sons. Investigators determined she had made a false complaint. In another instance, Kevin Foley had made an off comment to one of his colleagues, asking if he would be willing to help “get rid of a dentist.” The colleague thought he was joking. Investigators learned Foley had made these kinds of comments on many occasions.

The pending divorce was in constant lengthy negotiations. According to friends and neighbors, John was eager to put the tensions behind him, especially for the sake of his children. John did express his unease to his friends and family about Foley and that he was afraid for his safety and his life.

Foley was placed on leave as a result of being so close to the case. When the DNA from under John’s fingernails and the unidentified DNA from the crime scene came back as a match to Foley, he was arrested for Yelenic’s murder. Investigators further learned that a limited edition running shoe named Gel Creed made the bloody running shoe prints. Foley owned a pair, which he had ordered in 2003.

Piecing The Evidence Together

Detectives learned Foley had been at a hockey game a couple of towns over, which established his initial alibi. A new process of DNA technology was used, which changed the entire case because forensics placed Foley at the Yelenic house at the time of the murder. Investigators determined Foley did in fact stop by Yelenic’s house between 1:00 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. to confront him about the impending divorce between John and Michelle. An altercation ensued in which Foley attacked Yelenic with his fists and then a knife. During the altercation, Foley shoved Yelenic’s head through a small window. The broken glass sliced Yelenic’s throat, and he bled out on his floor. Foley left, walking out the back door, the same way that he had entered Yelenic’s home.

John was found later that day, the same day that he was to sign the final divorce papers.

The Aftermath

On March 19, 2009, Kevin Foley was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of John Yelenic. On June 1, 2009, Foley was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving out his life sentence at the State Correctional Institution-Retreat near Wilkes-Barre, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

The jury determined that if the divorce papers were signed, Michelle would lose the $2500 monthly spousal support, but if he died before the divorce papers were signed, she would collect John’s estate and his $1million life insurance policy.

Michelle Yelenic was awarded the estate of John Yelenic in addition to his $1million life insurance policy due to John’s death happening before the divorce papers were signed. Mrs. Yelenic did petition the court to grant a posthumous divorce after John’s death. A judge denied the petition.

Over the years, Kevin Foley and his legal team have entered several judicial appeals. The courts have denied all the appeals.

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