Lawyer for New Kensington man accused of killing son asks for more time to prepare for trial

Mar. 28—The lawyer for a Brackenridge man accused of killing his 9-year-old son told a Westmoreland County judge on Tuesday he needs additional time to prepare for trial.

Assistant Public Defender Michael Garofalo said he needs about six months to prepare his defense of Jean J. Charles, 41, who was charged last year with first-degree murder and other offenses.

Charles faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Azuree Charles’ body was found near his home at East Ken Manor in New Kensington last May. Police said Jean Charles strangled the boy, then dragged his body over an embankment and tried to hide it under lawn furniture.

Garofalo told the judge he must review hundreds of pages of evidence and view multiple videos that are expected to be included as part of the prosecution. Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio ordered Charles to return to court in about three months to gauge whether the case is ready for trial.

Charles has been in custody since last year and is being held without bond.

Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli announced this year that the prosecution will seek the death penalty against Charles because the boy was younger that 12 years old and Jean Charles was subject to a court order that restricted him from having contact with the boy.

Prosecutors claim Charles was permitted by his former wife, Luella Elien, who is the boy’s mother, to watch Azuree and his three younger sisters in defiance of the court order.

Jean Charles previously pleaded guilty to assaulting the boy in 2019 and was accused of doing so again in November 2021, according to court records.

Elien, 30, of New Kensington, was charged with aggravated assault, child endangerment and hindering prosecution. Police said she failed to prevent her former husband from abusing the child and permitted Charles to stay at her home despite knowing there was an active warrant for his arrest.

Elien’s case is pending. She served two months in jail following her arrest but was freed Nov. 19 after she posted $50,000 bond, according to court records.

Her case was originally assigned to another judge but Bilik-DeFazio said Tuesday she will oversee Elien’s case.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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