The April 2006 murder of Blairsville dentist Dr. John Yelenic has inspired books and television episodes since former State Trooper Kevin Foley was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
Now a Japanese production company is focusing on an aspect of the case — the investigative involvement of Butler sisters Suzanne and Jean Vincent, who claim psychic abilities — for a documentary television show intended for an overseas audience.
The former Yelenic home in Blairsville and other area sites were visited this month by a film crew from Japanese TV network Asahi, which plans to air the documentary under a title that loosely translates as “Scoop Video.”
“This is actually going to be Episode 1, like a pilot,” director Takuya Hara said through an interpreter. “We hope that it's going to be popular, but we don't know yet... It's already picked up by a network, but we hope that it will make the series.”
Hara said the company's research team found the story in A&E Biography channel's “Psychic Investigators” series, which filmed an episode about the Vincent sisters' involvement in the Yelenic homicide investigation in the spring of 2009.
“Psychic Investigators” isn't aired in Japan, Hara said, and psychic involvement in criminal investigations there is very uncommon.
“There are no official cases where they say that psychics were involved,” he said. “Because it's so unfamiliar in Japan that psychics would be involved in criminal investigations, and also the law-enforcement side would admit it, it's something that most Japanese people don't know about. That's why we want to do a story on that.”
The film crew interviewed the Vincent sisters, as well as law-enforcement officers involved in the investigation and Yelenic's neighbor, Melissa Uss.
Uss initially requested the sisters' help after meeting them at a “psychic tea party” in Indiana hosted by a family member of Donald Liscsak, whose 2005 disappearance the sisters investigated.
The Vincent sisters told Donald's mother, Sandra Kozar Liscsak, her son would be found dead, just off a busy street, near a tree with a split trunk, she told the Tribune-Review in 2008.
State police found Donald Liscsak dead in his sport-utility vehicle, which had crashed into a tree in the median of Route 119 in Indiana County. Passing cars did not notice the SUV, because the impact had splintered the tree's base and knocked it over, camouflaging it from passing cars, police said.
“My mom had called me about a month after the murder, asked if I wanted to go to a psychic tea party, and I thought, ‘Oh, that'd be great, maybe that would be a way to get in contact with John to find out some answers,'” Uss told The Dispatch during filming of the “Psychic Investigators” episode.
At the tea party, the sisters say they immediately sensed a “grief cloud” around Uss.
The sisters' spirit guides and Yelenic's spirit “showed us visual pictures of (Uss') sons finding a body,” Suzanne said. She said that, during the sisters' psychic reading, Uss asked, “‘Well, who do you think did it?' And right away the spirit guide yelled out to us, ‘Law enforcement.'”
The Vincent sisters said they volunteer their psychic investigative services to assist in cases involving homicides or missing persons, but the investigations are so mentally and physically taxing that they can only focus on a few cases at a time.
In addition to the “Psychic Investigators” episode, the sisters have appeared on local news broadcasts and will be guests on a Travel Channel show airing later this year. Filming for the Japanese documentary, though, was a unique experience for both sisters.
“Tokyo, that's a long flight. I was just honored and feeling blessed that someone would take an interest in highlighting (us),” Jean said.
“Generally when we're doing a documentary, we're using English,” Suzanne noted. “After every single scene, they had to convert everything into Japanese and then they spoke Japanese to convert the scene over during videoing. It was very interesting. They would translate it immediately and we'd go from scene to scene.”
On March 19, the Japanese crew and the Vincent sisters visited the former Yelenic home so the psychics could describe and reenact readings they conducted at the crime scene during the investigation.
“The information that we brought in literally stunned them,” Suzanne said of the sisters' June 2006 walk-through at the house accompanied by police investigators. “They kept us there for three and a half hours as we went room to room and received flashes of pictures, like moving pictures, scenes and Polaroids of a man stabbing and cutting up Dr. Yelenic.”
The sisters claimed they had visions and sensed spirits at the former Yelenic house during their most recent filming — nearly eight years after Foley, the boyfriend of Yelenic's estranged wife, Michele, stabbed the dentist and forced his head through a pane of glass in the front doorway of the South Spring Street home, severely lacerating his neck.
“When we pulled up to the house, I could see all of a sudden a man's face in the upstairs window on the right,” Suzanne said. “As we headed onto the porch and around, this huge wind picked up, it was just a huge wind and you could feel the energy as though he came back from a dimension to check on it. As we walked into the house, you could feel this heavy, pulling energy of sadness.
“It has changed in a lot of ways, but it also has remained the same,” she said of the house. “We could feel this sad energy and we could feel some chilly spots when we were in it.”
Hara and his crew aim to interview many sources to keep the documentary objective and let viewers draw their own conclusions regarding the validity of the sisters' extrasensory intuition.
“This is a documentary, and as journalists we have to be unbiased,” he said. “We have to be skeptical and at the same time we have to kind of see what's happening. We try to be unbiased and as objective as possible.”