Notorious Freeman Brothers Case in Court Today

Lawyers for Bryan and David Freeman of Salisbury Township, who are serving mandatory life sentences for the 1995 beating and slaying of their parents and brother, say the sentences violate their clients' constitutional rights because they were juve


Nearly three months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional, Bryan and David Freeman of Salisbury Township are challenging their 1995 life sentences for brutally beating and stabbing to death their parents and younger brother when they were teens.

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania has filed a motion to stay the Freeman brothers' sentence pending a decision by the state Legislature on how to deal with juveniles convicted of homicide. A hearing will be held today in Lehigh County Court in front of Judge Douglas Reichley.

Charles Banta, the attorney representing David Freeman, now 33, filed a petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act, arguing his client's mandatory life sentence without parole was cruel and unusual punishment and violated his constitutional rights. Banta said the judge should vacate his sentence.

Lehigh County Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Gallagher will ask for a stay of the proceedings until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules on appeals in two other cases involving juveniles who were convicted of homicide and were sentenced to life, including Easton killer Qu'eed Batts.

At issue:

  •  whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling should apply retroactively to juveniles whose cases were over and who did not have any appeals pending.
  • whether the state Supreme Court will say that the State Parole Board should be the one to decide when and if a juvenile should be released if the juvenile and his/her lawyer file a petition for parole.

The Freeman brothers' case made national headlines for its savagery. On the night of Feb. 26, 1995, Bryan Freeman, then 17, his brother David, then 16, and their cousin, Nelson "Ben" Birdwell III, then 18, returned from the movies to the Freemans' Ehrets Lane home. That's when the massacre began.

Brenda Freeman, 48, was found dead the next day stabbed multiple times with a steak knife and a pair of shorts stuffed in her mouth. Her husband, Dennis, 54, was bludgeoned to death in his bed with an aluminum baseball bat, and their son, Erik, 11, was struck numerous times with a pickax handle as he lay sleeping in bed.

The Freeeman brothers confessed to killing their parents, but denied killing Erik. Birdwell is also serving a life sentence without parole.

The Freeman never gave any motive for the killings. The boys had complained their parents, who were devout members of the Jehovah Witness hall on E. Emmaus Avenue, were strict. Bryan Freeman was hospitalized twice for mental illness and David received treatment for substance abuse and had been in several juvenile facilities, according to The Morning Call. Both had previously threatened to kill their parents, the article said.

The brothers, who attended were known to espouse neo-Nazi beliefs, wear military clothing and shaved heads, their foreheads emblazoned with neo-Nazi tattoos. David sported a tattoo that said "Sieg Heil" and Bryan had the words "berserker" tattooed on his forehead and a swastika on his neck.

Jerry Jones September 28, 2012 at 05:18 PM
This family was not just any Jehovah's Witness Family - it was a JW SUPER FAMILY.The parents were not ordinary JWs -- both parents had been TWO-TIME BETHELITES. The father was a prominent JW Elder often seen in assembly programs - even once giving the Keynote Address at a WATCHTOWER District Convention. The Freeman children were reared by strict WatchTower rules and regulations that governed every aspect of family life. As toddlers, they were required to minister door-to-door. As very young children, they were required to join the Theocratic Ministry School, in which they were trained to give sermons. The JW community was their life, and the outside world was their enemy. Few people realize how stressful is the life of a child reared as a JW. The pre-school years of a JW child's life is spent in an environment which totally rejects society outside the JW community. Then, the young JW child enters school and must continuously deal with a world and people that he or she has been taught is evil and will be destroyed by GOD at any time. The Freeman children were unable to cope with life in both conflicting worlds. After rejecting and being rejected by the non-JW world, they rebelled against their own JW world, and in turn were rejected by it. As obedient JWs, the parents started SHUNNING their own children inside their own home. Like cornered animals, those children finally lashed out against those whom they perceived to be the source of all the problems in their life.
pdough September 29, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Jerry, thank you. No really, thank you. To be honest, if i didn't read your comments, i wouldn't have had such an understanding of the quality of family that was murdered. I had no idea of the quality parenting these young boys had. As ministers in full time service, they were truly giving parents. And what training these youth's had, learning to read the Bible and then share that with others. Few today even pick up the Word. In a world where some parents neglect, abuse or abandon their children, it was reassuring to learn from your comments that they tried to follow Bible principles best as they could for imperfect humans. I guess I should have gotten the point when you pointed out "it was a JW SUPER FAMILY." I could have stopped right there but i'm glad i didn't, the rest of your comments told me everything I needed to know. So thank you again Jerry. Good day.
kris January 22, 2013 at 02:14 AM
So what he is saying is because their parents had beliefs and attempted to try to bestow those teachings to their kids, its okay to kill. yeah. I get that logic.


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