Arnold police try to solve deaths of mother and son

Decomposed bodies found in their home


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Despite working from late Thursday until Friday evening, investigators in the tiny Westmoreland County community of Arnold said they unearthed few clues about what led to the deaths of a woman and her grown son.

The bodies of Bonnie Lee Broadwater, 46, and Lance Holt, 24, were discovered at around 11:20 p.m. Thursday by police who went to the home after Mr. Holt's friend called 911 because he had not seen him in a number of days.

Arnold police Chief William Weber said an officer peeked in through the front window as one of the family's dogs brushed by the curtain, revealing Ms. Broadwater lying on the floor in the front room near the door. Police broke down the front door and found Mr. Holt's body nearby.

Chief Weber said both bodies were decomposed, giving police little immediate indication as to how they died. He said they had not yet ruled out a murder-suicide.

Neighbors said Ms. Broadwater, a frail woman who walked with a cane, moved into the home -- a modest white wooden structure that showed its age -- in the spring. Like many residents on the street, where well-kept homes stand between abandoned ones, they kept to themselves. Chief Weber corroborated their comments, saying police knew of few visitors to the home.

"It's kind of hampering us a little bit," he said.

PaulaRenee Brown, who lives next door, described the mother and son as quiet and polite. Mr. Holt occasionally had friends over for cookouts and cared for his mother.

But sometime last week, Ms. Brown heard Ms. Broadwater yelling at someone "Get out of my home!" and then "Get out of my life!" And for the last two or three days, she heard the family's two pit bulls howling.

Trenton Jones, who has known Ms. Broadwater since high school and owns an auto body shop around the corner, said she had struggled with drugs but had long been sober.

Ms. Broadwater had a criminal record that included convictions for theft, burglary and criminal trespass stemming from two incidents in Allegheny County. She was sentenced to probation in each.

On Friday, a stench emanated from the home and black flies buzzed around the front door, which remained ajar. Inside the front room, yellow tags marking evidence were scattered about as technicians meticulously combed the house for clues.

As of Friday afternoon, Chief Weber said they had found no weapon and no shell casings. They did find "signs of a struggle" in some areas of the home, but he would not indicate where. The doors, however, were locked and there were no signs that anyone had broken in, he said.

While investigators continued to question neighbors, the chief said they had identified no witnesses.

"What we're hoping to do is through our canvasses build up some information and put the pieces together," he said.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533.


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