Date: 2002-10-21

Published on October 21, 2002
Author(s):    Jessica Van Sack, Globe Correspondent

A Westfield man who murdered his wife and their two children before committing suicide may have been depressed at the prospect of helping his wife fight a debilitating, chronic illness on little more than his military pension, authorities said yesterday.

Kolenda used his cellphone to call 911 and told a dispatcher he had killed his family, then hung up.

Police entering the newly-renovated two-story home on Allen Avenue found a stream of blood that led from the kitchen to the basement, where the bodies of of Kolenda's wife, Gienia, 50, daughter Yana, 11, and son Anatoli, also 11, were stacked atop one another on the concrete floor.

Westfield police found Jienia Kolenda, 50, daughter Yana and son Anatoli dead at their home just before 5 am Sunday, McCabe said.
An autopsy will be performed on Richard Kolenda, a 49-year-old former Air Force major, to determine whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the stabbings early Sunday, local police said.

Richard Kolenda, 49, shot himself in the head with a small caliber handgun, according to Detective Lt. Michael McCabe said.

Kolenda's financial troubles stemmed from a franchise deal he made eight years ago.

He filed a highly publicized suit against GNC, a vitamin store chain, that he felt had unfairly closed a store he owned.

He invested his life savings in a GNC store in Jacksonville, Fla., in April 1994. GNC closed the store Dec. 9, 1999.

"These dates roll off Kolenda's tongue with accuracy and speed. He spends every day playing them over and over in his head," according to a Florida Times-Union article on Kolenda published last year.

Blood trails indicated that Kolenda stabbed them in the kitchen and then carried them to the cellar.

"I've been doing this for 18 years, and this is the I've been doing this for 18 years, and this is the worst one I've ever been through," Higgins said.

"The viciousness. The mere fact that there were two kids. And the setting was horrendous."

Kolenda's sister-in-law, Jolanta M. Kolenda, said he had not told any relatives about his wife's illness or any economic trouble.

Saturday night, Richard Kolenda stopped by his parents' house in Westfield, as he had every day since his mother's recent stroke. He showed off pictures of his 11-year-old son, Anatoli, playing football in their backyard.

"He told me how proud he was of his son and said that his two children are his joy," his father, Wladyslow J. Kolenda, recalled by telephone last night. "He just was very happy, and that was the last time I saw him."

His father, Wladyslow J. Kolenda, said his son and daughter-in-law, also a Polish immigrant, met in Chicopee in the mid-70s.

They married after dating for a year and traveled during Kolenda's Air Force career.

Kolenda went to college in Western Massachusetts and eventually earned his master's degree, his father said.

While living in Jacksonville, Kolenda developed a reputation for caring for stray and sick cats.

He invested thousands of dollars in veterinary visits, and owned a number of cats at the time of the killings.

In the early 1990s, the Kolendas decided they wanted children.

Determined to adopt a child whom they could rescue out of poverty, they traveled to Russia in 1998, returning with Yana and Anatoli, both 7 years old at the time and unrelated.

Their grandfather said Yana was an avid gymnast and Anatoli enjoyed football. Both were fifth-graders at the Holy Trinity School.

Kolenda's father said the family will delay the funeral until relatives from Poland arrive in the United States next week.

[These are excerpts of the original article]


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