Motive, suspects sought in Knoxville double homicide


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Pittsburgh police believe that the killer or killers of a couple found shot to death Thursday night in their car in Knoxville opened fire from inside the vehicle.

That means, said the mother of victim Jason Eubanks, that her son likely knew whoever shot him and his girlfriend, Cheralynn Sabatasso.

"I imagine he picked up someone," Wendy Eubanks said Friday. "My son really doesn't pick up riders. It had to be someone I imagine that he knew."

The bodies of Eubanks and Sabatasso, both 36, were found not long after a 911 call came in at 7:36 p.m. reporting six shots fired.

Sabatasso was in the driver's seat of her silver Lexus and Eubanks was in the front passenger seat in the 500 block of Grimes Avenue.

"We believe that the shooter or shooters were in the back seat of the car and all the shots in the car that were fired were fired from inside the car," Lt. Kevin Kraus said. "Just based on some of the physical evidence inside the car we believe that there could have been a struggle between Eubanks and the shooter."

An autopsy showed that Sabatasso was shot in the head. Her death was ruled a homicide. Eubanks' autopsy remained pending Friday night, but Lt. Kraus said earlier that he had been shot in the head as well.

No arrests have been made and no motive has been determined.

"We don't know what, how, why," said Ms. Eubanks, 63, of Harrison.

Eubanks has a lengthy criminal history involving 13 cases dating back to 1996. They include guilty pleas to drug and gun felonies, according to online court records.

Sabatasso was convicted of a drug count and aggravated assault, both felonies, in two cases in 2007 and 1996, records show.

Ms. Eubanks was reluctant to discuss her son's history other than to say, "He was a good guy. He had his problems, his difficulties. He ran into problems like anybody else."

Eubanks and Sabatasso had been a couple for about 10 years and lived together in Mount Oliver with one of Sabatasso's daughters, Eubanks' family said.

"He was just friendly with everyone. He always got along with everyone. He always thought of others before himself. He was real family-oriented," said Eubanks' sister, Starr Hollinger, 27.

Eubanks was one of seven children. He was not currently employed, his mother said. Ms. Hollinger said she and her brother had recently discussed opening an old-fashioned sandwich shop together.

"I was supposed to meet with him this week and I got caught up with stuff," Ms. Hollinger said.

She and her mother said they did not know why the couple was in Knoxville. Ms. Hollinger said she last spoke to her brother by phone two days before his death and he seemed fine.

Sabatasso's sister declined comment.

In response to the shooting, Mayor Bill Peduto said in a prepared statement, "I have every ounce of faith that our police force will find those responsible for this crime. We need the community to come forth with any information that may aid in this investigation to bring about a swift conclusion."

Anyone with information regarding the shooting can call the city's homicide squad at 412-323-7161. Callers can remain anonymous.

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com.


Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published January 23, 2014 9:16 PM


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