Police: Hempfield suspect was seeking 'suicide by cop'

Violent, abusive and turbulent relationship 'ended so badly'

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They had all said it at some point: One day he's going to kill her.

Laura Giacchino and her mother rushed to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg on Sunday afternoon after learning Anita Sabol had been stabbed by her boyfriend. Ms. Giacchino was sure she'd have another chance to beg her cousin to finally end what had become a violent, abusive and turbulent relationship.

"When we got to the hospital, they brought us to that family conference room," said Ms. Giacchino, 56, who grew up with Ms. Sabol. "That's when we found out he had cut her throat."

Ms. Sabol, 57, died about an hour after her boyfriend, Rodney L. Golden, 41, left her bleeding in a hallway at the Hempfield Towers apartments in Hempfield. A neighbor who heard the couple arguing called police after opening his door and seeing Mr. Golden slice her throat with a knife.

Minutes later, Mr. Golden, still holding the knife, was shot twice by a state trooper outside the apartments for elderly and disabled people.

"She was completely obsessed with this man. He was abusive, mean. He was just evil. ... We wanted her away from him, but we just couldn't do it," Ms. Giacchino said. "It was a horrible, horrible relationship, and it ended so badly."

Trooper Steve Limani, a state police spokesman, said police believe Mr. Golden was likely attempting to commit "suicide by cop" because they found a self-inflicted knife wound on his neck.

Responding officers from various departments were unable to stop Mr. Golden with Tasers because his thick clothing prevented the darts from sticking.

"We were doing everything we could to try and subdue this guy," Trooper Limani said. He added that Mr. Golden was within 21 feet of the trooper who fired and that he lunged at the officer with the knife, prompting the deadly-force response according to state police training guidelines.

"He was shooting to stop the action and stop the threat from continuing," he said. State police have not identified the trooper who fired the fatal shots pending an investigation.

Mr. Golden was also pronounced dead at Westmoreland Excela, six minutes before Ms. Sabol.

Trooper Limani said state police and other local law enforcement agencies were "familiar" with Mr. Golden.

In August, state police charged him with simple assault after he allegedly choked Ms. Sabol, though the charge was dismissed because she would not cooperate with police, Trooper Limani said.

In 2011, Mr. Golden was arrested on simple assault and criminal mischief charges after a man told police Mr. Golden hit him at a Greensburg bar and threw him on the ground. The charges were later withdrawn.

At the Point Bar and Grill in 2009, a former girlfriend told police Mr. Golden was upset that she was there with another man and they started arguing. Ms. Sabol then pushed her head off the bar, according to a Greensburg police criminal complaint. Mr. Golden tried to interfere with Ms. Sabol's arrest, police wrote, and grabbed an officer "by the shirt and neck, causing pain and a large scratch to the left side of his neck."

Court records show Mr. Golden pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced to probation in that case. The felony aggravated assault charge relating to the patrolman was dismissed.

Ms. Giacchino said her cousin, a longtime bartender at the Hill-Top Social Club in Greensburg, met Mr. Golden four or five years ago at the bar and that the ensuing relationship alienated her from her relatives and sent her life into a downward spiral. Ms. Sabol, who had stayed out of trouble virtually her entire life, abused prescription anxiety medication and alcohol and constantly fought with Mr. Golden, she added.

"They were just a lethal combination. Towards the end, these last couple years, she made a lot of bad decisions, did a lot of crazy things," Ms. Giacchino said.

Nothing could persuade her to end the relationship.

"She thought we were out to get her and didn't want her to be happy," Ms. Giacchino said. "She was a person with a good heart, she would have done anything for anybody. ... She just got mixed up with a bad person who made her into this crazy person, and eventually she died for it."

After years of estrangement, Ms. Giacchino said her mother, Mary, called Ms. Sabol on Sunday morning to talk to her about moving in with them and starting over. Ms. Sabol told her aunt she would have to call her back.

"We never got to finish the conversation," she said. "Women need to see that this is a very dangerous thing. These men aren't going to change. Listen to your family. Listen to your friends. There are people out there that can help you."

Robert Zullo: 412-263-3909 or rzullo@post-gazette.com. Molly Born contributed. First Published January 20, 2014 2:53 PM


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