Mary Kay Eichinger worked as an emergency medical technician and considered a career in medicine, but she found her niche -- and an outlet for her special skills -- when she shifted to law enforcement.
Ms. Eichinger, 56, of Mt. Lebanon, who was the municipality's first female police officer and had a nose for financial crimes, died Thursday after a battle with cancer.
Ms. Eichinger's interest in financial cases could have stemmed from her father, a certified public account and graduate of the Wharton School.
"She was very, very good at solving problems," her sister, Barbara Eichinger of Mt. Lebanon, said.
Ms. Eichinger was born July 28, 1956, in Harrisburg, a daughter of Donald J. and Kay Romansky Eichinger.
Her family moved to Mt. Lebanon when she was 9. She graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1974 and took classes at Community College of Allegheny County and University of Pittsburgh.
She was working at Medical Rescue Team South and considering a medical degree when she took the police exam, her sister said. Hired in August 1981, she was the department's first female officer, Lt. Aaron Lauth said.
"She was a tough person, one you knew you really couldn't mess around with," Lt. Lauth said. At the same time, she was known for her compassion, especially for unwanted animals, he said.
Ms. Eichinger worked as a patrol officer for 10 years, then shifted to the investigative services unit. There, she liked to investigate financial crimes, which brought unique challenges.
Financial crimes "really don't have borders," Lt. Lauth said.
In 2002, Ms. Eichinger received the officer-of-the-year award from the Pittsburgh chapter of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators for arresting 24 people, most of them from Detroit and Pittsburgh, on fraud charges. Lt. Lauth said Ms. Eichinger was a runner-up for the national award that year.
In 1994, one of Ms. Eichinger's cases involved a North Braddock woman who was using her 10- and 12-year-old daughters to commit fundraising fraud and other crimes door-to-door in various municipalities, including Mt. Lebanon.
"This is the perfect scam," Ms. Eichinger said at the time, describing the girls as "the cutest little things. They are adorable."
A 1999 case involved a school crossing guard who was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The crossing guard recalled the last four digits of the red car's license plate. According to a news report, Ms. Eichinger identified the driver after scouring 18 months of police reports involving red cars.
"She was tenacious," District Judge Blaise Larotonda, who retired from the police department with Ms. Eichinger in 2003, said. "She remembered everything. It amazed me. She had a memory on her and ways to connect things and solve things that were just unbelievable."
Ms. Eichinger, who also worked on the District Attorney's Narcotics Enforcement Team, retired with the rank of senior police officer. She later worked as a fraud investigator for Dollar and Citizens banks.
Services will be held in the Mt. Lebanon Cemetery mausoleum chapel at 10:30 a.m. today. Memorials to Animal Friends or the St. Vincent DePaul Society at St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon.
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.