South Fayette man on trial for homicide
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A South Fayette man told police that after he struck his wife in the head at least 10 times with a hammer and repeatedly stabbed her in the chest with a steak knife, he sat on their bed for 25 minutes as she died, telling the woman he loved her.
Then, he said, he set their house on fire.
Robert Abrams, 42, is on trial this week in the death of his wife, Jeannette, whose body was found April 23, 2010, inside their burning home on Locust Lane.
Allegheny County homicide detective Lewis Ferguson testified that he interviewed Mr. Abrams several hours after the 3 a.m. fire was reported.
During the first interview, Mr. Abrams said he believed the fire began when the family dog knocked over a candle onto a pile of stuffed dog toys in the living room.
But an hour later, when Mr. Ferguson spoke to the man again, he told him about Jeannette Abrams' injuries -- that she did not appear to have died from the fire.
"He gives a different version of events," the detective said.
In the new version, Mr. Abrams said he had been watching a Penguins playoff game when his wife began yelling at him that he "had time to watch the Pens game but didn't have time to get a job, earn money and contribute to the household."
Mr. Abrams told the detective she followed him through the house and, at one point, he shoved her down from behind. The man then said his wife hit her head on a dresser.
"She got back up, continued the argument, and she attacks him -- swinging at him wildly," Mr. Ferguson said, recounting what the defendant told him.
At that point, Mr. Abrams said he grabbed a claw hammer from the dresser and began hitting her, Mr. Ferguson said.
Mrs. Abrams got up from the floor and the defendant picked up a steak knife from a dresser and stabbed her repeatedly until she stopped fighting back, the detective said.
"He sat down next to her [on the bed], held her approximately 25 minutes and told her he loved her, and she stated the same to him," Mr. Ferguson said he was told.
He said Mr. Abrams then told him he started the fire, planning to stay inside the residence and die, too, but changed his mind because of the heat from the flames and instead jumped out a bathroom window.
Earlier in the day, Marc Landy, who was house-sitting at a nearby home, testified that he heard banging on the door about 3 a.m. and someone shouted to call 911.
It was Mr. Abrams.
"His glasses were all full of smoke. The skin on top of his head burned and fingers cut," Mr. Landy said.
When the man asked Mr. Abrams if he wanted help to find his wife in the house, Mr. Abrams said no, he said.
The trial, before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen, is expected to conclude today.
Mr. Abrams is charged with homicide, abuse of a corpse, arson and recklessly endangering another person.
First Published June 26, 2012 12:12 am