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Man denies drinking $100k in whiskey

SCOTTDALE, Pa. — A former mansion caretaker denied that he drank four dozen bottles of well-aged whiskey worth nearly $100,000, claiming it would have been unsafe to drink, saying the booze had ‘‘evaporated’’ instead.

‘‘Yuck! That stuff had floaters in it and all kind of stuff inside the bottles,’’ John Saunders, 63, of Irwin, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review outside a district judge’s courtroom Wednesday.

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Saunders’s comments came after his preliminary hearing on theft and receiving stolen property charges was postponed until May 15 so he could apply for a public defender.

Patricia Hill found the Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey hidden in the walls and stairwells of her century-old Georgian mansion, which was built by coal and coke industrialist J.P. Brennan.

She converted the mansion into a bed and breakfast and hired Saunders as a live-in caretaker, only to discover the bottles had been emptied and replaced back into slots in their original wooden cases.

Scottdale police charged Saunders with drinking the whiskey after his DNA was found on the lips of some empty bottles, Chief Barry Pritts said.

Hill told police she stored the 52 bottles of whiskey in the original cases, which contained 12 bottles each. After Saunders moved out, Hill said she discovered last March that the bottles in four cases were empty. Police had a New York City auction house appraise four remaining bottles and concluded the value of all 52 bottles would have been $102,400.

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