Police seeking clues in East Liberty slaying

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Sarah Wolfe

Two adult sisters found slain inside their East Liberty home were remembered by friends and co-workers as friendly and warm-hearted while police on Saturday sought leads in the double killings.

Police released few details Saturday about the investigation, which began Friday when a co-worker of Susan Wolfe, 44, asked police to check her well-being after she did not come to work at the Hillel Academy in Squirrel Hill, where she was a teacher's aide.

"This is a very active investigation with numerous investigative details to be conducted," Pittsburgh police Major Crimes Lt. Daniel Herrmann said.

The bodies of Susan Wolfe and her sister, Sarah Wolfe, 38, a UPMC pediatrician and psychiatrist, were found Friday afternoon in the basement of the two-story 93-year-old home they shared.

Both women appeared to have been shot, police said.

About 1:15 a.m. Saturday, Pittsburgh police learned that the lime green 2011 Ford Fiesta belonging to Sarah Wolfe was parked on South Whitfield Street between Penn Avenue and Baum Boulevard in Friendship. The car was about one mile from the Chislett Street home she purchased in East Liberty in December.

Although autopsies were performed on the women, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office was not releasing cause or manner of death.

Medical Examiner Karl Williams said the decision rested with him.

"They're complex cases," Dr. Williams said Saturday. "... Things change, bruising patterns change, different things if you wait a little while.

"We do it fairly routinely if we think we may be able to see other patterns of injury develop after a period of time," Dr. Williams said.

The exact time of the women's deaths has not been released.

Susan Wolfe went to work Thursday morning at the Early Childhood Center at the Hillel Academy and left about 5 p.m. She apologized to her supervisor, center director Dori Oshlag, and said she could not stay late because she had an appointment at 5:30 p.m.

Ms. Oshlag said Susan Wolfe regularly came to work about 7:25 a.m. "eager to start the day, greeted the children at the door, read them books while waiting for other children to arrive ... Her smile was infectious. She approached every day with optimism."

When she did not arrive on time and had not called or texted, Ms. Oshlag began calling her house about 8:20 a.m. and received no answer. Then she tried emailing and texting.

"And by noon, myself and the staff and administration realized we had to make a difficult call to ask for help. The rest is history," she said.

Friends of Susan and Sarah Wolfe, who worked as a UPMC pediatrician and psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, arrived at the home about the same time that police showed up and unlocked the door for the officers. Police released no information about the conditions of their bodies. They were pronounced dead at 1:48 p.m. Friday.

Family members, most of whom live in Iowa, learned of the deaths shortly after 5 p.m. Friday. A sister, Mary Wolfe, who is a Democratic state representative in Iowa, attended a meeting about an economic development project with two fellow legislators earlier that afternoon.

Sarah and Susan were part of a family that included eight siblings, who struggled Saturday to make sense of the killings.

"Right this minute we're still trying to figure out what happened," Mary Wolfe said. "They were both incredible people, and we would like their friends and colleagues to know a little bit more about them and how much we appreciate their thoughts and wishes."

She added that the family was preparing obituary information. A service is expected to be held late next week, likely in Iowa.

Susan Wolfe moved to Pittsburgh about four months ago, Ms. Oshlag said.

"I think her genuine nature of being outgoing, positive would just make her be that type of genuine person that would want to help someone and trust someone," Ms. Oshlag said. "It's that nature, perhaps, of being raised in the Midwest, and just approaching everyone with a smile."

Sarah Wolfe had a similarly glowing reputation.

Her boyfriend, Matthew Buchholz, of Bloomfield, posted a message on Facebook calling her a "beautiful, brilliant funny woman who worked as a children's psychiatrist and was an old school riot 'grrrl.'...This whole thing is unimaginably sad."

A man who answered the door at Mr. Buchholz's home Saturday said he did not wish to talk. Lt. Herrmann said Mr. Buchholz is cooperating. "We're not keying in on him as a suspect."

Sarah Wolfe was a dream tenant, said Kelly Carter, a former landlord in Sheraden. She would put her February rent check in a Valentine's Day card. She baked cakes and brought them over to Ms. Carter for no reason. She gave treats to the dogs in the neighborhood.

"We were just so happy to have her," said Ms. Carter. "She turned out to be a model tenant and a model neighbor and friend."

Sarah Wolfe moved into her rental property on Francisco Street in Sheraden in June 2010 as she was finishing up UPMC's "Triple Board Program," which provides training in pediatrics, adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry.

She moved out around Thanksgiving after buying the Chislett Street house for $210,000.

Shortly after moving to East Liberty, Sarah Wolfe's house was burglarized. She contacted Ms. Carter for advice on replacing a broken pane of glass. Ms. Carter said she counseled her former tenant to get an alarm system but does not know if she followed through with her suggestion.

"I really hope they find who did this. I can't imagine her hanging out with unsavory individuals. She's such a nice person that maybe someone got through."

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com. Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com. First Published February 8, 2014 8:43 AM


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