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Last updated: Wed. Jun. 30, 2010 - 10:31 am EDT

Convicted killer charged in a second 2002 slaying

Joseph Kast told police he stabbed 85-year-old city man in ambush.

A convicted murderer already serving a 55-year prison term for the July 2002 fatal stabbing of a Huntington County building inspector now faces another murder charge in the stabbing death of an elderly Fort Wayne man just over a week earlier that same year.

Joseph A. Kast, 33, is seven years into his sentence at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for the murder of 44-year-old Earl Bowman at a construction site in southern Huntington. Kast is now accused of lying in wait and then stabbing several times 85-year-old Claude Berkshire in the detached garage of Berkshire's home at 2208 Juliette Ave. nine days earlier, on June 24, 2002. One of Berkshire's four daughters discovered her father's body in the garage.

While Kast was arrested at a Huntington convenience store moments after the Bowman slaying – and was subsequently charged and convicted of the murder – the Berkshire killing had befuddled Fort Wayne Police since.

Kast apparently confessed to the killing to officials at the state prison in May 2009, according to Fort Wayne Police spokeswoman Raquel Foster. During interviews last May and several times afterward, Kast admitted to waiting in Berkshire's garage for hours before ambushing and stabbing the elderly man several times, according to Kast's probable-cause affidavit, filed Tuesday.

Kast was able to describe to police how he stabbed Berkshire, what the man was wearing and how his body was laid, as well as the layout of the garage, the affidavit said.

Kast said that after the killing, he rummaged through Berkshire's pockets for the man's wallet, stole his cash and put the wallet back, the affidavit said. He then left the garage, walked to the St. Marys River and tossed the knife out, according to the affidavit.

Just more than a week later, Kast, while working in Huntington as a subcontractor at a home construction site Bowman was inspecting, stabbed Bowman four times after a discussion on the site. Kast was high on marijuana and methamphetamines. Kast accepted a plea bargain with prosecutors that capped his sentence at 55 years. He was sentenced in June 2003.

Meanwhile, Berkshire's family and police investigators were left searching for clues to his inexplicable death, unable to come up with a suspect, lead or motive to explain the stabbing of a man who family described then as “the nicest, kindest person in the whole world.” Berkshire, who lived for more than 50 years in the Westfield neighborhood home where he was killed, was a retired registered nurse at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and volunteered at St. Joseph Hospital.

His family was unavailable for comment.


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