Man accused of stuffing body in suitcase says he killed in self defense

Delaware County District Attorney's Office

The man accused killing an acquaintance and stuffing his body in a suitcase told two jailhouse snitches he killed in self defense, according to court testimony.

A preliminary hearing was held Tuesday for Thomas Brennan, who is accused of killing Scott Bernheisel and then dumping his body in Tinicum Township near the airport. Bernheisel’s body was discovered in May by a man walking his dog.

Brennan, 25, allegedly told one a man in a holding cell at Philadelphia Police headquarters that and argument erupted after Brennan rebuffed Bernheisel’s sexual advances. Bernheisel attacked, and was killed after Brennan was able to wrestle a dumbbell away and bludgeon him with it.

He told a cellmate at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility that the argument erupted after Brennan refused to sell drugs for Bernheisel.

Brennan told both informants that he stabbed Bernheisel to make it look like he’d been killed in a “mafia hit,” apparently because Brennan believed that the dead man had some sort of connection to Italian and Mexican organized crime.

Eric Konewal, Brennan’s cellmate at CFCF said he asked if there was a lot of blood after the stabbing.

“He said ‘Let me give you a tip, if the heart isn’t pumping, there won’t be any blood,” Konewal said.

In a strange turn of events, the judge also heard the tale of Brennan’s attempted escape while inside a police holding cell.

Officer Jason Daniel said Brennan was able to get access to a crawlspace in the ceiling. He hung out up there, refusing to come down as cops in the detention unit tracked him using the sound of his footsteps above the ceiling.

He finally agreed to come down after officers threatened to send up a dog.

Brennan is charged with is girlfriend, Crystal Leibhart. She is accused of helping dispose of the body. She did not appear in court on Tuesday.

The pair allegedly stuffed the body in a suitcase and kept it there for two days until it started to smell.

Brennan then convinced a friend with a car to drive him to Tinicum, where he threw the suitcase into the woods.

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