Murder-for-hire case entangled by Allen Wade arrest
March 6, 2014 11:49 PM
Allen Wade Jr.
By Liz Navratil and Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The man accused of killing two sisters in East Liberty twice has served as a jailhouse informant -- once in a pending murder-for-hire case in Westmoreland County and once in a Pittsburgh shooting death.
Last year, an inmate in the Westmoreland County Prison told authorities that homicide suspect Lee Atwood tried to hire him for $1,500 to kill a witness expected to testify at trial, according to a police affidavit.
Although court papers did not name the confidential informant, multiple sources familiar with the case identified him as Allen D. Wade Jr., the man arrested Wednesday in the slayings last month of his next-door neighbors, Sarah and Susan Wolfe. Wade has said he is innocent.
Wade similarly acted as an informant eight years earlier when he wrote a letter to the Allegheny County district attorney's office stating that his onetime cellmate in the Allegheny County Jail confessed to killing a man in a North Side drive-by shooting. That man later was acquitted.
News of Wade's arrest this week left unanswered questions about the status of the Atwood case.
Wade, 43, arrived in the Westmoreland County Prison Aug. 22, nine days after Mr. Atwood, 55, of Irwin. Wade had just surrendered on charges that he stole a Cook Township woman's wedding ring while delivering a refrigerator to her house months earlier.
Mr. Atwood was looking at a long stay in the county prison. Days earlier, Pennsylvania State Police had arrested him on charges that he fatally shot a South Huntingdon man, George Williams, 46, on Aug. 12 in a dispute over money.
Troopers wrote in an affidavit that they learned of a man who saw Williams punch Mr. Atwood in the nose, causing him to bleed. The witness told police Mr. Atwood left in a white 2006 Ford Explorer and drove east on Route 31 toward Mount Pleasant.
The witness was standing in a driveway talking with Williams a short time later when he heard a gunshot and saw a white SUV drive away.
He told troopers that Williams cursed, then said, "I've been shot. I love you."
Williams died moments later.
In their affidavit state police said they had other witnesses -- a woman who told them she saw a man resembling Mr. Atwood walking along a nearby road and trying to hide a shotgun, and a person who said he saw Mr. Atwood with a 12-gauge shotgun.
But troopers said the witness who most concerned Mr. Atwood was the man who watched Williams die. On Sept. 9, Wade told troopers that Mr. Atwood had confided in him that he was worried about the witness's testimony, according to the affidavit.
When Wade told Mr. Atwood he would be released from prison soon, Mr. Atwood offered to pay him $750 in advance of killing the witness and $750 later, the affidavit said.
Mr. Atwood drew pictures of the witness's home and gave Wade instructions about where the witness kept his gun, police wrote. They said Mr. Atwood instructed Wade to "put two bullets in his head" and to "do it quick."
At some point during the probe, Wade wore a recording device, sources said. Mr. Atwood was charged with soliciting homicide and conspiracy. Both of his cases are still pending.
Wade's public defender requested Sept. 13 that his bond in the theft case be reduced. The district attorney's office objected, according to court filings.
When Wade's parole from a 2002 bank robbery conviction expired Oct. 2, Wade was granted a bond reduction from $25,000 to nominal bond, court records show.
Once the date of Wade's maximum sentence passed, the probation and parole board had no power to hold him, said Sherry Tate, spokeswoman for the state Board of Probation and Parole.
District Attorney John Peck of Westmoreland County -- who confirmed Thursday night that Wade had provided information about Atwood -- said he had no comment about how Wade's arrest in the double homicide might affect the murder-for-hire case.
Wade's previous role as a jailhouse informant occurred while he was awaiting the final outcome in two separate robbery cases. He wrote a letter to the Allegheny County district attorney's office saying that his cellmate had confessed to killing a man on the North Side in 2003.
He wavered on his story, at one point telling an attorney not connected to the case that the suspect was innocent. The defense later attempted to call three witnesses from the State Correctional Institution Smithfield to refute Wade's testimony. The suspect was acquitted after a non-jury trial.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.