Police accuse South Fayette man of killing wife
An Allegheny County Fire Marshall's detective investigates the scene of a house fire on Locust Lane in South Fayette, where a woman's body was found on Friday.
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Police said a South Fayette man bludgeoned and stabbed his wife to death, then torched their house early Friday after they argued about him staying up late to watch the Penguins playoff hockey game.
Robert Dennis Abrams, 40, told detectives he pulled a hammer from their bedside table and struck his wife, Jeanette, several times in the head during a fight over "financial matters and his unemployment."
When she continued to yell and curse at him, he said, he grabbed a knife from a dresser drawer and stabbed her in the chest.
Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt, whose homicide detectives investigated the case, offered few glimpses into what he called a "domestic argument," but he said Mrs. Abrams was upset that her husband was still watching the triple-overtime Penguins' game late into the night.
The dispute started in the living room about 1:30 a.m., then continued into a bedroom, where Mr. Abrams shoved his wife from behind, causing her to fall and strike her head on a bedside table, according to the criminal complaint. Mrs. Abrams got up and came toward her husband, swinging her fists.
He hit her in the head at least 10 times with the hammer, Medical Examiner Karl E. Williams said, fracturing her skull before stabbing her at least four times in the chest.
Mr. Abrams lingered in the bedroom as his wife lay dying on the bed, the complaint says, then decided to burn the house at 110 Locust Lane.
He told police he lit a dog's toy with a candle and threw it in a corner of the living room, where it spread to a couch and then to the rest of the room.
Mr. Abrams escaped out a second-floor window.
"He showed me his burned hands, and he said the dog must have knocked over a candle," said Ed Haskins, who lives near the opposite end of the street. He was watching TV about 3 a.m. when he noticed from his window that flames were shooting 20 feet in the air from his neighbor's house.
Firefighters arrived shortly after 3 a.m., just as Mr. Abrams was getting up off the ground, according to Superintendent Moffat. Mr. Abrams told firefighters his wife was still inside the home.
They found Mrs. Abrams' body in the second-floor bedroom, and investigators could tell almost immediately that the blaze was not to blame in her death, although police said Mr. Abrams tried to make it look that way.
"There was no indication she was alive at the time of the fire," Dr Williams said, adding that such a cover-up would be "very difficult" to accomplish.
Mr. Abrams was awaiting arraignment Friday night on charges of homicide, arson and abuse of a corpse. He remained at UPMC Mercy for burns to his hands and face.
The couple had lived in the home, near the end of a short dead-end street, for seven or eight years, and South Fayette police had no history of any domestic problems there, Chief Louis Volle said.
First Published April 24, 2010 12:00 am