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Woman gets 12 to 24 years in slaying

When Thomas P. “Gunner” Lesniak left his mother’s house in Everson in January 2005 for work, the 52-year-old Fayette County man promised her that he would stop back soon.

But Lesniak never got the chance. Before his bartending shift would end that night, he would die at the hands of 41-year-old Catherine M. Hamborsky.

“The day Tommy was murdered, he stopped by to see me before he went to the bar,” said Mary Lesniak, in a prepared statement that was read Thursday by her other son, Joseph “Joe” Lesniak, during Hamborsky’s sentencing hearing. “He shouted from the car, ‘I’ll see you, Mom.’ His last words to me were, ‘I love you, Mom.'”

A jury on May 5 found Hamborsky, of Kingview Road, Upper Tyrone Township, guilty of third-degree murder in the Jan. 4, 2005, shooting and stabbing death of Thomas Lesniak. Hamborsky also was found guilty of abuse of a corpse and two counts of arson.

Thomas Lesniak’s burned body was discovered inside his brother’s tavern, J.J.’s Restaurant and Bar, in Upper Tyrone. In finding Hamborsky guilty, jurors rejected the woman’s claim that she acted in self-defense after the victim allegedly attacked her and demanded sexual favors.

Judge Steve P. Leskinen yesterday sentenced Hamborsky to 12 years, two months, to 24 years, four months in state prison. Lesniak’s family and District Attorney Nancy Vernon had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years.

Leskinen said he took into account Hamborsky’s lack of a prior criminal record and good employment history in determining a sentence. Although Joseph Lesniak, in his presentencing statement, alleged Hamborsky had been involved in prior “bad acts” but was never caught, Leskinen said he could not consider unproven allegations in deciding a sentence.

Joseph Lesniak said he was disappointed Hamborsky was given less than the maximum, but he noted that a longer sentence would not have given him closure.

“It doesn’t matter what he gave her,” Joseph Lesniak said. “She ruined everybody’s lives. Our family’s, and her family’s.”

During the sentencing hearing, Thomas Lesniak’s daughter, Faith Lynn Lesniak, said she has suffered from “many sleepless nights and random crying spells” since her father’s murder. She said she often questions whether the night her father died would have ended differently had she visited the tavern.

“I wish I would have stopped,” Faith Lesniak said as she fought back tears. “Maybe I could have stopped the fire.”

Faith Lesniak noted that her father won’t see her graduate from graduate school, walk her down the aisle when she marries, or see his grandchildren. But even while jailed, Faith Lesniak noted, Catherine Hamborsky still will see her family.

Catherine Hamborsky sobbed quietly as her husband, Richard, testified the couple’s children, ages 14 and 4, will grow up without their mother. The older child attended yesterday’s hearing, but court constables prevented Catherine Hamborsky from embracing the boy as she was led from the courtroom.

“That’s my son,” Catherine Hamborsky said as she reached out, handcuffed, for her son. “Please.”

Leskinen ordered Catherine Hamborsky to make $253,348 restitution to Joseph Lesniak for the loss of the tavern.

Immediately after yesterday’s hearing, Catherine Hamborsky was to be transported to the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Lycoming County, to begin serving her sentence.


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