Cyd Berger ~~~~~~ Cyd Berger2
Cyd Berger
SCI Muncy #
Sentence: Life Without Parole (LWOP)
Charges: Conspiracy to murder and aggravated assault.
Convicted 1982. Time Served 33 years

Summary: Cyd became the pawn of an abusive pimp. She advised him to strangle rather than shoot a local taxi driver. This was the extant of her involvement with the crime. She later turned herself in and testified against the perpetrator. Despite her cooperation, she was sentenced to LWOP.

Convicting factors: 1) Guilt by Association. 2) Inadequate/unfit mother. 3) Philadelphia's 1980's anti-black pogrom.

Ajax Loader Gif

On October 27, 1980 the Pittsburgh Police found the body of Robert Karcz in a wooded area in the Oakland-Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh; he had been strangled. On November 8, 1980 appellant, aware that the police were searching for her, co-defendant Dwayne Hicks and co-defendant Tracy Saunders, turned herself in to Pittsburgh Police detectives. She averred to the police that she was an innocent bystander to the murder of Robert Karcz and that she simply helped Hicks load the victim's body into an automobile for disposal in the wooded area in which it was found by police.

Appellant began dating Hicks in 1976; she was working at Equibank in Pittsburgh. She testified that soon after moving in with Hicks he coerced her into working as a street prostitute; she testified that she continued to work, as a prostitute, due to beatings administered by Hicks and his threats of further beatings. Hicks moved from Pittsburgh and spent eight months in the United States Marine Corps.

When he returned, appellant, who testified that she believed Hicks' nature had changed, again moved in with him. She was again beaten, and, forced to work as a prostitute. Subsequently, Saunders moved in with appellant and Hicks (Hicks now had two lovers residing with him). The trio moved to California but appellant returned, alone, to Pittsburgh. Hicks and Saunders returned to Pittsburgh and, after a telephone call from Hicks, appellant again moved in with the couple, was beaten by Hicks, and, continued to prostitute herself. Appellant testified that Hicks stated that he would kill her if she left him.
Appellant also testified that Hicks threatened to harm appellant's children, who lived with appellant's parents. Hicks also beat Saunders and eventually coerced her to work as a prostitute.

In the fall of 1980 Hicks became aware of an arrest warrant that had been issued for him regarding an unrelated burglary charge. Appellant told Hicks that he should leave the Pittsburgh area rather than turn himself in to the police. N.T., October 15, 1981, at 367. Hicks decided that he, appellant and Saunders would need a car and money in order to flee Pittsburgh. Saunders, who was working as a prostitute, agreed to find a "customer" and bring him back to the trio's residence so that Hicks could rob him and take possession of his car. Id. Before Saunders left the apartment appellant told her that Hicks intended to kill the "customer." Id. at 368. Hicks told appellant that stabbing the customer would leave deposits of his blood in the apartment; appellant suggested that Hicks strangle the customer. N.T., October 20, 1981, at 179-180. Appellant's suggestion was made three and one-half hours before the killing.

Hicks and Saunders went to the Liberty Avenue section, recognized as the "red-light" district, of downtown Pittsburgh to find a victim; appellant remained at the apartment. Hicks purchased handcuffs and a pellet gun and returned to the apartment. He tested the handcuffs and fired the pellet gun in the apartment; appellant cautioned him not to fire it again since a neighbor could possibly call the police. Id. at 183. Saunders brought the victim back to the apartment and had him disrobe. Hicks entered the room, handcuffed the victim and strangled him.

Appellant and Saunders were in another room; appellant informed Saunders that Hicks was strangling the victim. A bucket of water sat in the room where the strangling occurred. Saunders asked what the bucket was to be used for; appellant replied that the victim's head would be placed in the bucket and that he would be drowned. N.T., October 15, 1981, at 383-384. After the victim was deceased Saunders asked appellant why the victim's skin had turned "dark"; appellant replied that, "that is the color that you turn when you are dead." Id. at 385-86.

Hicks and appellant wrapped the victim's body in a blanket; Saunders testified that she could not bring herself to assist them. Appellant directed Hicks to remove the handcuffs from the victim's body since the trio's collective fingerprints may have been inadvertently placed upon the handcuffs. Id. at 386. The victim's wallet, car keys and credit cards were taken. Hicks took the victim's body to a wooded area and left it. Appellant and Saunders cleaned and straightened the apartment and rummaged through the victim's personal effects.

When Hicks returned to the apartment he told the women that he deposited the victim's body in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park. Appellant told Hicks that he should have "threw [Sic] it [the body] in the river" where it would remain undetected for a longer period of time. N.T., October 20, 1981, at 196. Appellant suggested that the trio not leave Pittsburgh until the following day so that they could utilize the victim's credit cards.

The next day the trio purchased items with the credit card; appellant sat alone in the victim's car during one of the purchases at a shopping mall. A period of time later Hicks entrusted appellant with the car and fifty dollars and directed her to fill the car's gasoline tank. Unaccompanied, she conducted several errands with the car.

Hicks and Saunders left Pittsburgh that evening; appellant stayed alone at the apartment. The two returned a day or two later and Hicks stated to appellant that she could remain in Pittsburgh or leave with them; she chose to accompany them to Atlanta, Georgia.
After three days in Atlanta, more beatings from Hicks and work as a prostitute, appellant returned to Pittsburgh and turned herself in to police. She then participated in a police operation that culminated in the capture of Hicks.