Neighbor arrested in the homicide of Wolfe sisters in East Liberty

A neighbor of two East Liberty sisters found slain inside their home early last month has been arrested and charged with killing them.

Allen Wade, 43, a convicted felon, faces charges of homicide, burglary, robbery, theft, access device fraud and carrying a gun without a license.

Members of the Pittsburgh police and Allegheny County Sheriff's Office arrested Wade about 1 p.m. in Rankin.

Police talk about events leading to arrest of Allen Wade

Allen Wade, 43, a convicted felon, has been arrested in connection with the slaying of East Liberty sisters found dead inside their home early last month. (Video by Nate Guidry; 3/5/2014)

Wade was arrested by Pittsburgh homicide detectives at a bus stop at 4th and Hawkins in Rankin, said Rankin police Chief Ryan Wooten.

"He was about to get on a bus," the chief said.

Allegheny County sheriff's deputies were in the area on Tuesday after receiving a tip, the chief said, and had set up about two blocks away from where Wade was taken into custody.

Chief Wooten said that Wade has family in the area that he had been visiting.

Shortly after noon, Wade posted on Facebook, "I would like for the world to know I am 100 percent innocent I would never ever in any way Hurt a person so brutally it is not in my nature I have always respected women and will always continue to do so I am being framed to take the fall for this case and hopefully justice will prevail ! I appreciate all of you who pray for me and I love my family God bless I am going to turn myself in now since they act like they don't know where I am at !!"

Police escorted Wade out of headquarters to the Allegheny County Jail shortly before 4 p.m. He said he felt he was being framed, possibly because he had a previous criminal background.

"I'm 100 percent innocent. I didn't do anything wrong," he said.

The key piece of evidence leading to the charges came from a gray pair of sweatpants that police said they found near Sarah Wolfe’s car after their deaths. A blood stain on the sweatpants matched a DNA sample from Wade that had previously been uploaded into a national database.

Police found the sisters after co-workers of Susan Wolfe, a 44-year-old teacher’s aide, grew concerned that she had not come to work Feb. 7. She left work about 5 p.m. the day before and told a co-worker that she had an appointment but did not provide further detail and police have not discussed the meeting.

Surveillance footage factored heavily into the investigation of their deaths, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Detectives used video footage and records from the sisters’ home alarm company to determine when the front door opened and closed and when the women arrived at home.

About 7:20 p.m. on Feb. 6, Susan Wolfe was spotted on Hays Street walking alone toward her home. Five minutes later, the front door to their house opened. It opened and closed again about 8:53 p.m. 

Sarah Wolfe swiped her card at the parking garage at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic about 9:23 p.m. The front door opened and closed at 9:40 p.m. and then again at 9:51 p.m. and 9:54 p.m.

Police, who received a key from Sarah Wolfe’s boyfriend, went into the home to check on their well-being about 12:45 p.m. the next day, Feb. 7.

The foyer was in disarray, police said, and the walls, floor and basement doorway were spattered with blood.

In the basement, police found Susan Wolfe naked, and bleach and laundry detergent had been poured on her. Sarah was found clothed with a blanket over her head and liquid detergent had been poured on top of her.

Both had been shot once in the head.

The contents of Susan Wolfe’s purse were poured out on the basement floor, her driver’s license, credit cards and keys missing, as well as her cell phone.

A search of bank records shows that Susan’s bank card was used between 12:43 and 12:51 a.m. Feb. 7 at an ATM on Penn Circle.

Surveillance footage from the ATM showed a man wearing gray sweatpants, a red hooded sweatshirt, a pair of bright white shoes and something white covering his face. Video also showed the man taking off the gray sweatpants about 1 a.m. Feb. 7 on South Whitfield Street near a Midas Muffler shop.

Police found Sarah Wolfe’s distinctive lime green Ford Fiesta parked on that street about 24 hours later, and found a pair of sweatpants nearby that contained a business card for someone who interacted with Susan Wolfe.

A blood sample on those sweatpants matched Wade, police wrote.

On Tuesday, a worker in the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office told homicide detectives that a blood stain collected on the back left side of the pants matched a sample taken from Wade after one of his previous felony convictions, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

She told detectives “there is also a DNA mixture of female and male DNA under Susan’s finger nails, and Allen Wade cannot be excluded as a contributor to this mixture,” police wrote.

Detectives also used video to trace the man spotted in video near Whitfield Street to a Sunoco station on North Highland Avenue, where he threw something into the garbage and bought two packs of Newport cigarettes, police wrote.

Homicide detectives brought Wade in for questioning Feb. 19, after two officers from the city’s Zone 5 station in Highland Park spotted him on separate occasions and thought he matched the description of a man spotted in surveillance footage from the Sunoco station.

Major Crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus said during a press conference this afternoon that detectives encountered Wade while canvassing the neighborhood following the sisters’ deaths, spoke to him and took a report but he was not considered a suspect at the time.

“He had a different physical appearance,” Lt. Kraus said. “We think that was intentional. He looked different during the canvass than at the Sunoco.”

Wade remains upstairs at police headquarters, where detectives hope to question him.

Asked about motive, Lt. Kraus said, “At this point, we have several theories.”

He said robbery and sex assault are among theories being considered but there was no evidence of sexual assault.

“We don’t know why he entered the house,” the lieutenant said.

Contacted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the day before he was brought in for questioning, Wade said he did not hear any commotion at the women’s homes the night before they were discovered dead.

He appeared in court last week after his landlord attempted to have him evicted because he owed about $1,600 in back rent.

As he left the office of District Judge Ron Costa, Wade said he felt the media had published “lies” about him but did not go into specifics.

“I am not a monster,” he said, adding that his name would be cleared.

Searches of a state database showed that Wade purchased eight different handguns between 1997 and 2002, seven of which had not been transferred, sold or stolen, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Four had previously been confiscated by law enforcement, police said.

Anita Wilcox of Penn Hills, the mother of Wade’s live-in girlfriend, continued this morning to proclaim his innocence.

“Well, I just don’t believe it,” she said after being informed by a reporter of the arrest warrant. “I think they’re looking for a scapegoat myself ... I think they were looking for a scapegoat since he was a prior felon. I don’t believe he has anything to do with that at all. But you know what goes on in the dark will come out in the light.”

Ms. Wilcox said officers dropped Wade off at her house Feb. 20 after he was questioned for hours at police headquarters on the North Side. She said he stayed for several days but she did not know his current whereabouts.

Pittsburgh police searched her house Monday into Tuesday in the middle of the night, she said, and they advised her and her daughter to get an attorney.

Mrs. Wilcox insisted that Wade was ill and had recently been in the hospital. She has said she believes he was incapable of overpowering the Wolfe sisters.

“He was weak. He was sick. The boy is sick,” Ms. Wilcox said. “He should be in a hospital. I’m not sure of all his health issues. I don’t feel like he’s even strong enough to have done that.”

Ms. Wilcox said her daughter is “devastated” by recent events.

“You would be devastated if somebody told you you were sleeping with a sociopath,” Ms. Wilcox said.

Court records show that Wade is not a stranger to the legal system. Multiple women have previously filed protection-from-abuse orders against him.

He was convicted of robbing a bank in Wilkinsburg and of simple assault for incidents that occurred in 2002. He is currently awaiting trial on charges that he stole a woman's wedding ring in Westmoreland County last year.

Liz Navratil: Jonathan Silver: Paula Reed Ward contributed. First Published March 5, 2014 10:50 AM


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