PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Prosecutors say some prior crimes of a man charged in the double murder of two sisters in East Liberty are what they call “signature” crimes, ones that leave the footprint of the suspect.
Now, they’re pushing to use them as evidence when the suspect goes to trial.
In March of 2002, the Wilkinsburg branch of PNC Bank was robbed by someone who called ahead pretending to arrange a floral delivery. Police say the man used a gun and forced the woman who opened the door to lie on the ground while he got away with cash.
A month later, a Payless Shoe Store was robbed and the suspect forced a female employee to lie face down while he robbed the store.
Afterward, there was a chase along I-79 and the suspect crashed his car. Police eventually caught up with him.
In both cases, police say the gunman was Allen Wade, who served a total of seven years in prison in connection with those and other cases.
Prosecutors say they are “signature” crimes, or crimes that give an indicator of how Wade operated when they say he allegedly killed two East Liberty sisters, Sarah and Susan Wolfe, in 2014.
Victims on the floor, a gun used, the suspect flees in bright-colored clothing, authorities say.
But the defense argued if that’s the case, Wade fits a profile of plenty of other suspects in Allegheny County and the crimes are too distant from the murder to be considered signatures.
Attorneys in the Wade case would not comment.
But Pittsburgh attorney Phil DiLucente, who is not connected to the Wade case, explained why so-called “signature” crimes are important at trial.
“The prosecution is attempting to bring in what’s called habit evidence,” said DiLucente. “That’s a regular response to a repeated situation. Now, what are some of the factors? Some of the factors are how long did this previous incident occur to the current incident? Was it a regular response to a repeated situation? Only the judge will be able to determine that after oral argument by both counsels.”
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski will rule on some of these motions next week, still hoping to begin jury selection in November.