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Man Confesses Murders To Priest; Bodies Found Stuffed in Refrigerator

April 8, 1989

STRUTHERS, Ohio (AP) _ A man was charged with murder Friday after he confessed to a priest that he killed his girlfriend and daughter and stuffed their bodies in a refrigerator.

The priest persuaded the man, Stephen A. Vrabel, 32, to turn himself in after the two talked about 30 minutes in a confessional Thursday.

Vrabel, of Struthers, was ordered held on $2 million bond on two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Susan Clemente, 29, and 2 1/2 -year-old Lisa Clemente.

Ms. Clemente’s landlord, Michael E. Aey, discovered the bodies Wednesday night when he went to the apartment where Vrabel and Ms. Clemente lived to determine why they were behind in their rent.

Her body was found in the refrigerator, wrapped in blankets, sheets and a pillow tied around her with rope. The toddler’s body was bundled with two teddy bears, blankets and a pillow and stuffed in the freezer compartment. Both had been shot in the head, authorities said.

Vrabel turned himself in Thursday in the Cleveland suburb of Parma after hearing news reports that the bodies had been found and confessing to the Rev. John Carlin, pastor of St. Charles Roman Catholic Church. Carlin said he did not know Vrabel, who apparently was driving through the neighborhood and spotted the church.

″He told me that he has killed his wife and daughter,″ Carlin recounted in a telephone interview. ″Yes, I was scared.″

Carlin, a priest for 13 years, called the confessional ″a movie scenario.″

Although confessions are considered confidential, Carlin said Vrabel asked him to explain what happened to police and twice released him from any obligation of secrecy - once when they were alone and the second time in front of three Parma police officers.

Asked whether Vrabel mentioned a motive, Carlin said Friday, ″He told me nothing.″ He said he wouldn’t comment on it even if Vrabel had named a motive because he thinks that would be going beyond Vrabel’s intention when he agreed to have his confession disclosed.

Authorities believe the two were killed about March 3 and that Vrabel spent about 2 1/2 weeks in the apartment after their deaths, left for a while and then returned, said police Detective Dean Phillips.

Vrabel did not enter a plea during his arraignment Friday. He told Municipal Judge Robert Kalafut he had not worked in about six months and had no income. He did not specify his occupation in court and police did not know it.

Kalafut appointed a lawyer for Vrabel, even though the suspect said he didn’t want to hire one or have one appointed for him.

The judge said in an interview after the hearing that investigators had found beer cans strewn about the apartment and a type of gas mask he said was frequently used to inhale drugs.

Police Capt. Joseph Bovenzi said authorities had no motive for the killings. He said Vrabel told police he and his girlfriend had not been arguing and that he had not been drinking or taking drugs before the incident.

A .22-caliber casing was found in the kitchen and two casings and a slug were found in the front room, Phillips said. The detective said police also found some rags that appeared to be blood-stained.

Police found a .22-caliber pistol in the car Vrabel drove to police headquarters to surrender.

A peliminary hearing is to be scheduled within 10 days. Vrabel was being held in the Struthers jail Friday awaiting transfer to the Mahoning County jail.

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