Benjamin Amato from Brodheadsville, PA, hadn’t been seen or heard from in several days when the police went to his home. They found him lying dead at the bottom of his basement stairs. He had been savagely beaten with a blunt object; he had a fractured skull and was lying in a pool of his blood.
Suspicion instantly fell on Amato’s ex-lover Cheryl Kunkle. The pair had been involved in a custody battle over their son, Jonathan. In July 2001, Kunkle had attempted to file a harassment complaint against Amato which was dismissed. At the time, she allegedly asked, “what do I have to do, kill him to get him to leave me alone?”
That’s precisely what she did, in November 2001 she went to Amato’s residence and awaited his return. She pepper-sprayed him in the face and then struck him on the head three or four times with a blunt object, probably a baseball bat.
Kunkle had her son from a previous relationship Gregory Rowe, then 15, drive her to Amato’s house. She instructed him to pick her up from a nearby location in an hour. When they rendezvoused later, Kunkle changed her clothes in the backseat of the car.
Gregory Rowe would later testify against his mother in court. He said that his mother had told him she’d murdered Amato. A tearful Rowe told the court: “She couldn’t stand the fact that Ben was in my life.” Rowe testified wearing handcuffs; at the time, he was awaiting trial for murdering his ex-girlfriend and their 7-month-old baby.
Martin Reynolds, a married Pocono Mountain Regional Police officer who was dating Kunkle at the time of the murder, also testified against Kunkle, saying that she’d implicated herself in the crime to him.
In June 2007, Cheryl Kunkle was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Kunkle has continued to show zero remorse; following her conviction she still maintained her innocence, arguing that Amato must have accidentally fallen down the stairs. She attributed the amount of blood splatter at the scene to a police conspiracy to frame her for the crime.
Judge Vican countered with: “Anyone who believes that is delusional, this man was brutally murdered.”
Kunkle has subsequently launched numerous appeals, all of which have failed.
Murder In The Poconos can be seen at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.