Two pistol-wielding convicts ended a nearly six-day siege at...


PITTSBURGH -- Two pistol-wielding convicts ended a nearly six-day siege at a maximum-security state prison Tuesday, surrendering suddenly and freeing unharmed two hostages seized in a botched escape attempt.

'I can finally, thankfully report this situation is over,' said state corrections bureau spokesman Kenneth Robinson.


The 127-hour drama at Western Penitentiary ended when the inmates released their second hostage, guard Daniel Kohut, 39, about 3:30 p.m. EST. Kostas Mastros, 51, a civilian data supervisor, was freed about five hours earlier.

Both hostages were checked by medical personnel and pronounced well.

'There were threats constantly,' said prison superintendent George Petsock.

He said authorities 'gave nothing up' to free the captives except to grant the inmates' request for temporary transfer to a federal prison.

He said the convicts were not granted amnesty and new charges against them would be determined by state police and the state attorney general.


Many of the 101-year-old prison's 1,300 inmates, confined to their cells since the siege began, let out a thunderous cheer after each hostage was freed. They were to remain in their cells until after a full weapons search.

Robinson said the inmates, armed with smuggled handguns, surrendered without much discussion with negotiators.

'They just indicated after thinking about it that they were ready to come out, and they said 'Will you take us to a federal prison?'' he said.

Shortly after 3 p.m., convicted murderer Louis Coviello, 26, of Dunmore, Pa., carrying a pistol, came out of the basement supply room where the hostages were held and gave himself up.

He then telephoned accused killer Richard Henkel, 45, of Pittsburgh, who remained in the room with Kohut.

'After (Coviello) surrendered, he asked if he could make a phone call to Henkel, which he did, to assure Mr. Henkel he was OK,' Robinson said.

Henkel told guards at 3:30 p.m. he was ready to surrender.

'Three minutes later, the door opened and Danny Kohut came out first, followed by Mr. Henkel, who surrendered the weapon he had,' Robinson said.

Both inmates left the prison in the third car of a seven-car police convoy.


Petsock said the convicts were taken to the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., about 170 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The transfer was arranged by Gov. Dick Thornburgh's office.

'Basically we didn't promise them anything. In essence we signed no agreements with them,' Petsock said.

Kohut's release followed some anxious moments after a 'low muffled shot' was heard at 12:30 p.m. in the supply room, but authorities were convinced it was accidental because Kohut called out that he was fine.

A doctor who examined Mastros following his release said the hostage told him part of the reason he was freed 'was the fact that he'd done a small favor for one of the inmates years ago.'

Mastros, whose first words on release were 'Give me a cigarette,' was hungry, unshaven and haggard but 'in amazing shape considering the ordeals he's gone through,' said Dr. Dietrich Jehle at Allegheny General Hospital.

'He said he had his hands tied behind his back and he was in a corner for the great majority of time that he was there,' Jehle said. 'He said eight times a day he was having a gun held up to his head.'

The convicts seized the hostages at 8:30 a.m. Thursday during an abortive escape attempt as they prepared to leave the prison for a court hearing.


Henkel, who has several federal convictions, faced trial on charges of killing a Pittsburgh woman in 1979 to collect her $800,000 life insurance policy.

He also was charged in a scheme to extort money from prominent area residents -- including Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney -- by attaching bombs to them.

Coviello was convicted of the 1979 murder of an alleged drug dealer.

Latest Headlines