Michael Travaglia recently received his third execution date. Mere hours after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the execution warrant for September 13, 2012, Judge Nora Barry Fisher of the US District Court for Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh blocked the execution. The stay of execution was granted to allow time for Michael, 53, to complete his appeals.
Michael has been on death row for the past 31 years, since his “Kill for Thrill” murder spree in December 1979 to January 1980 in the Pittsburgh area, with partner John Lesko.
On December 29, 1979, the body of 49-year-old Peter Levato was found near the Loyalhanna Dam near Saltsburg, PA. Travaglia and Levato forced Peter to drive them out of Pittsburgh. They then bound his hands and feet, hit him in the head, and pushed him over a bridge. Travaglia shot him once in the chest and twice in the head after discovering Peter was still alive.
On January 2, 1980, 26-year-old Marlene Sue Newcomer’s body was found in her vehicle in a Pittsburgh parking garage. She was likely killed the day before. Marlene had offered Travaglia and Lesko a ride in her vehicle, where she was shot several times before being robbed.
Thirty-two-year-old William Nicholls was abducted on January 3, 1980, by Travaglia and Lesko. The three drove in William’s car to Blue Spruce Park, where Travaglia and Lesko bound and gagged William and filled his jacket with rocks before pushing him through a hole in the ice of Blue Spruce Lake, where William drowned.
The final victim was 21-year-old rookie police officer Leonard Miller. January 3, 1980, was Leonard’s third day of work. He made what he thought was a routine traffic stop. A car had repeatedly sped past Leonard’s police cruiser. In that car were Travaglia, Lesko, and a juvenile male, who were attempting to lead Leonard away from a convenience store they wished to rob. Leonard was killed as he approached the car.
Travaglia and Lesko were arrested on January 5, 1980, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Travaglia pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for Peter and Marlene. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for William, along with Lesko. Both received life sentence before being tried for the murder of Leonard Miller.
Travaglia was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy in 1981. He had his death sentence overturned in 2005. Travaglia received a new sentencing hearing where he was again given the death penalty by a jury.
Michael Travaglia had a relatively normal childhood. Michael’s father was known for being strict while his mother was devoutly religious, albeit, detached and unemotional. According to former teachers, Michael was a shy and quiet kid who played in the band and was on the swim team. Michael graduated from Kiski Area Senior High School in 1976, and went on to the Allegheny County Airport to study to be an airplane mechanic. It was at the Airport that Michael and John Lesko first met.
After high school, Michael changed. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol. At the time of his arrest, Michael was a self- proclaimed Satanist. Since his arrest, Michael claims to have changed. He professes to have developed a relationship with Jesus Christ, encouraged by his wife through daily Bible studies and prayers. He also strives to share his beliefs with other prisoners. Four different clergymen have had in-depth conversations with Michael and believe his conversion to be genuine.
Please pray for peace for the families of Peter Levato, Marlene Sue Newcomer, William Nicholls, and Leonard Miller. Please pray for peace for the police officers that knew and served with Officer Miller.
Michael does not wish to die, but, through his faith, he has come to terms with whatever may happen. Please pray that the Lord will continue to grant him peace and acceptance.