Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct donation numbers.
Standing in the courtyard of Allegheny General Hospital with her family nearby, Lori Keener, a speaker at Allegheny Health Network’s “Donate Life” flag-raising ceremony on Monday, said she was honored “to be here to tell you all about my love, Matthew Keener.”
Matt Keener, her husband, died on Christmas Eve 2018 at the age of 43, a day after he suffered a catastrophic brain bleed during an outing with Lori and their son, Ryan, who was 6 months old.
Matt was an organ donor – it was marked on his driver’s license. So, on Christmas Day, he was able to donate the gift of life – his heart, lungs, corneas, and tissue – to at least six people.
For Lori, a Canonsburg resident, knowing that Matt’s death provided a chance for a new beginning for others has brought her comfort.
“While we were in our deepest pain, I held on to the hope of knowing all those people got a call on Christmas Eve that their second chance had come, their Christmas miracle, and that miracle was my Matt,” said Lori.
April is National Donate Life Month, held annually to honor organ donors and their families, and their selflessness. It also aims to raise awareness about the need for organ and tissue donors, and to encourage people to register.
Lori, accompanied by Ryan and her three nephews, raised the Donate Life flag at the end of Monday’s ceremony.
Lori described her husband as a wonderful husband, father, son, and friend who loved dirt track racing, golf, live music, and local craft breweries.
“When our son was born, Matt shined as a daddy. He loved the early morning cuddles and teaching Ryan all about sports. We didn’t know just how little time we would have together as a family,” said Lori.
On the Sunday when Matt suffered the hemorrhage, he, Lori and Ryan attended church, ran errands, and went to a restaurant for lunch.
After they finished eating, Matt stood up and said he wasn’t feeling well.
He went to the restroom, where Lori found him 10 minutes later, unresponsive.
He was rushed to a local hospital, and then transported to Allegheny General Hospital, where doctors informed Lori that he would not recover.
“My life was shattered,” she said.
Shortly after, a doctor approached Lori about Matt’s intentions to be an organ donor, and she consented.
Members of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) guided Lori through the process.
“I was floored with the love and support they offered to my family, and continue to offer,” said Lori.
Before Matt’s death, Lori declined to be an organ donor. Now, she is an advocate for organ donation, and she registered to be a donor shortly after Matt died.
“I am proud that I signed that pledge for life. I know what made the difference – it became personal,” she said.
Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE, said a record number 792 life-saving organ transplants were made possible in 2020 through partnerships between CORE and the hospitals it serves through Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Allegheny Health Network saved or improved lives through 282 organ, tissue and cornea donations.
Stuart noted that 110,000 people in the United States are waiting for a life-saving transplant. Every 10 minutes, a person is added to the organ transplant list, and about 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
The ceremony also featured a living donor couple, Dennis and Heather Haley – Heather donated a kidney to her husband – and Clinton Blazevich, who underwent a heart transplant at AGH last year.
“During April, let the ‘Donate’ flag serve as a symbol to those who have received a second chance, to those who are waiting for a second chance, and to our donor families like Matthew Keener and his wife, Lori, who have given the greatest gift possible, the gift of life,” said Stuart.
Lori said that on the first anniversary of Matt’s death, she received a letter from a woman who had received a tissue transplant as a result of her husband’s donation.
The letter, Lori said, brought her some joy during that first Christmas without Matt.
Lori said she tells Ryan that his father “is a super hero.”
“I want Ryan to know that his daddy’s life didn’t completely end that day, and that his life continues on and his sacrifice has helped others continue on,” she said. “I don’t want Ryan ever to feel bitter or angry that it happened. We want those families to never feel sorrow over receiving his organs because Matt gave them hope and life, and we always want to honor that.”
A Coal Center man accused of slashing his pregnant girlfriend with a knife a few days before stabbing his neighbor to death pleaded guilty Monday in order to avoid the death penalty.
Dylan Lesnik, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted homicide in the two cases and was sentenced by President Judge John DiSalle to life in prison without parole, along with an additional 20 to 40 years to be served consecutively. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped all other charges in the two cases that occurred in mid-December.
Lesnik fatally stabbed his 27-year-old neighbor Marshall Y. Craig inside a Coal Center duplex at 135 Spring St. during the Dec. 17 home invasion and robbery.
State police investigators said Lesnik pretended to have Craig’s mail when he entered his residence and then stabbed him multiple times in the neck and face. Before killing him, investigators said Lesnik took Craig’s bank card and forced him to reveal his personal identification number so he could withdraw about $1,600 from his account. He then stole Craig’s car and left.
Craig’s mother, Carla, testified during the victim impact portion of Monday’s sentencing, staring directly at Lesnik as she dared him to look back at her while she spoke about her son.
“You can look at me,” she said while pausing for a few moments as Lesnik looked downward. “Or be a coward.”
Craig’s parents went to check on their son Dec. 18 after he had uncharacteristically missed two shifts at work, she said. When they entered his apartment, they found him slumped in a chair with multiple stab wounds, Carla Craig testified.
“That vision of our beautiful son dead will forever be ingrained in our brains,” Carla said. “We are tortured by Marshall’s last thoughts in life.”
In a strong and at times booming voice that echoed in the courtroom, she reminded Lesnik what he took from their family.
“He was greatness. He is greatness,” she said, adding that he was their only child. “We had one child, one opportunity, stolen.”
First Assistant District Attorney Jason Walsh filed court papers last month indicating that prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against Lesnik should he be convicted. Walsh said after the hearing that the family agreed to the plea deal that avoided a trial and took the death penalty off the table. Lesnik was also ordered to pay $3,932 in retribution to the family.
Several of Craig’s family and friends attended the plea hearing and sentencing wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his smiling face and the words “Marshall’s Revolution” written on the back in reference to a support group they formed to keep his memory alive. Sabrina Sublett, who helped to create the group, said they use the social media page to tell stories, grieve together and even raise money for special projects, including a bench placed in Craig’s honor at California Rotary Park.
“Marshall was a man who would do anything for anyone,” Sublett said.
Sublett said she would remember Craig as “happy, alive, smiling” for the rest of her life.
“Your story ends here,” she told Lesnik. “His does not.”
Lesnik made no statements during his sentencing and only spoke to answer DiSalle’s questions.
Three days before Craig’s murder, police said Lesnik assaulted his pregnant girlfriend, Cassie King, by punching her several times and then slashing her ear and neck with a knife. Investigators alleged that Lesnik and an acquaintance, Troy Matthew Chiera, coerced King into recording a cellphone video in which she was told to claim that another person assaulted her.
King needed a blood transfusion and later had surgery to reattach part of her ear. She also was required to wear a neck brace from injuries to her spine following the Dec. 14 assault. King was nine weeks pregnant at the time, although her unborn child survived the attack.
Chiera, 34, of Centerville, is awaiting trial in his case on charges of criminal conspiracy to attempt homicide, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, conspiracy to intimidate a victim, conspiracy to flight to avoid apprehension, conspiracy to terroristic threats, tampering with evidence and obstruction of law administration, aggravated assault, flight to avoid apprehension, terroristic threats and witness intimidation.
MINNEAPOLIS – The Minneapolis police chief testified Monday that now-fired Officer Derek Chauvin violated departmental policy in pinning his knee on George Floyd’s neck and keeping him down after Floyd had stopped resisting and was in distress.
Continuing to kneel on Floyd’s neck once he was handcuffed behind his back and lying on his stomach was “in no way, shape or form” part of department policy or training, “and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.
Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s death last May, and in June called it “murder.”
His testimony came after the emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead testified that he theorized at the time that Floyd’s heart most likely stopped because of a lack of oxygen.
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who was a senior resident on duty that night at Hennepin County Medical Center and tried to resuscitate Floyd, took the stand at the beginning of Week Two at Chauvin’s murder trial, as prosecutors sought to establish that it was Chauvin’s knee on the Black man’s neck that killed him.
Langenfeld said Floyd’s heart had stopped by the time he arrived at the hospital. The doctor said that he was not told of any efforts at the scene by bystanders or police to resuscitate Floyd but that paramedics told him they had tried for about 30 minutes.
Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Langenfeld said that based on the information he had, it was “more likely than the other possibilities” that Floyd’s cardiac arrest – the stopping of his heart – was caused by asphyxia, or insufficient oxygen.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death May 25. The white officer is accused of digging his knee into the 46-year-old man’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, outside a corner market, where Floyd had been accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes.
The defense argues that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health conditions caused his death.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson questioned Langenfeld about whether some drugs can cause hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen. The doctor acknowledged that fentanyl and methamphetamine, both of which were found in Floyd’s body, can do so.
The county medical examiner’s office ultimately classified Floyd’s death a homicide – that is, a death at the hands of someone else.
The full report said Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”
Under cross-examination from Nelson, Langenfeld said Floyd’s carbon dioxide levels were more than twice as high as levels in a healthy person, and he agreed that that could be attributed to a respiratory problem. But on questioning from the prosecutor, the doctor said the high levels were also consistent with cardiac arrest.
Langenfeld also testified that neither he nor paramedics administered a drug that would reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The doctor said giving Narcan once a patient is in cardiac arrest would provide no benefit.
Floyd’s treatment by police was captured on widely seen bystander video that sparked protests that rocked Minneapolis and quickly spread to other U.S. cities and beyond and descended into violence in some cases.
Langenfeld said that “any amount of time” a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR decreases the chance of a good outcome. He said there is an approximately 10% to 15% decrease in survival for every minute that CPR is not administered.
Prosecutors in the second week of the trial are also expected to zero in on Chauvin’s training in the use of force.
Arradondo also testified about police policy that dictates that whenever it is reasonable to do so, officers must use tactics to deescalate a situation so as to avoid or minimize the use of force.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher noted that while some people may become more dangerous under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some may actually be “more vulnerable.” Arradondo agreed and acknowledged that this must also be taken into consideration when officers decide to use force.
“It’s recognizing that when we get the call from our communities, it may not often be their best day, and they may be experiencing something that’s very traumatic,” the chief said.
Before he was pinned to the ground, a handcuffed and frantic Floyd struggled with police who were trying to put him in a squad car, saying he was claustrophobic.
Arradondo said officers are trained in basic first aid, including chest compressions, and department policy requires them to request medical assistance and provide necessary aid as soon as possible before paramedics arrive.
Officers’ first aid training is “very vital because those seconds are vital,” Arradondo said, adding: “And so we absolutely have a duty to render that.”
Officers kept restraining Floyd – with Chauvin kneeling on his neck, another kneeling on Floyd’s back and a third holding his feet – until the ambulance arrived, even after he became unresponsive, according to testimony and video footage.
One officer asked twice if they should roll Floyd on his side to aid his breathing, and later said calmly that he thought Floyd was passing out. Another checked Floyd’s wrist for a pulse and said he couldn’t find one.
The officers also rebuffed offers of help from an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter who wanted to administer aid or tell officers how to do it.
The city moved soon after Floyd’s death to ban police chokeholds and neck restraints. Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey also made several policy changes, including expanding requirements for reporting use-of-force incidents and documenting attempts to de-escalate situations.
Prosecutors have already called supervisory officers to build the case that Chauvin improperly restrained Floyd. A duty sergeant and a lieutenant who leads the homicide division both questioned Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd to the ground.
“Totally unnecessary,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-tenured officer on the force, testified Friday.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
Webber reported from Fenton, Mich.