PITTSBURGH (AP) – A prosecutor laid a trail of evidence bags, crime scene photos and DNA-stained clothes across a courtroom floor from the jury box to the table where a Pittsburgh man sat accused of killing his neighbors, two sisters of an Iowa state lawmaker.
“All roads lead right to Allen Wade,” Deputy Allegheny County District Attorney Bill Petulla said in his closing argument on Wednesday.
Wade, 45, is accused of killing Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38, after they returned from work on Feb. 6, 2014, apparently to steal a bank card he allegedly used to withdraw $600 hours later. Wade needed the money for back rent and because he was facing eviction, Petulla said.
The victims were sisters of Democratic Iowa state Rep. Mary Wolfe, who has been in the courtroom along with other family members since the trial began May 2.
Wade’s public defender, Lisa Middleman, spent nearly two hours picking apart the prosecution’s case before Petulla spent as long trying to shoot down various defense theories. One is that police rushed to judgment and didn’t investigate thoroughly before charging Wade because the Wolfe sisters were “nice” victims – white women from a good family – not drug dealers or street criminals. Wade is black.
“Some of what was done and some of what wasn’t done is because these were very ‘nice’ people,” Middleman told the jury which includes six men and six women, including four black members. “That’s not an objective investigation.”
But Petulla noted that Wade wasn’t questioned until 12 days after the killings and wasn’t charged for another two weeks after that. And when he was first asked whether he knew anything about the murders, Wade’s answer was curiously specific:
“You’re not gonna find any of my DNA in there,” Petulla said, referring to Wade speaking about the Wolfe home.
Investigators didn’t find any of Wade’s DNA in the home, which showed evidence of having been scrubbed, along with bleach being poured on parts of the victim’s bodies, Petulla said. The sisters had each been shot in the head and Susan Wolfe was found naked.
But lab tests did find Wade’s DNA under Susan Wolfe’s fingernail, which a prosecution expert testified was 6 trillion times more likely to be Allen Wade’s than anyone else’s. Only then was Wade charged, Petulla said.
The rest of the case is a jigsaw of circumstantial evidence, including security system data that shows when the sisters – and, later, an unknown person – entered and exited the home the night they were killed; surveillance video of a man in a hooded sweatshirt walking along neighborhood streets and stopping at an automatic teller machine, where the $600 was withdrawn; and clothes found along that route.
The clothes included a sock with Wade’s and Sarah Wolfe’s DNA on it. Petulla said that likely came from Wade putting it over his hand as he drove Sarah Wolfe’s car after the killings only to abandon it several blocks away, where various surveillance cameras began picking up the hooded man – who Petulla said was Wade.
That man is seen removing a pair of sweat pants that were later found by police right next to the light pole where they were seen being discarded on camera. They had Wade’s DNA on them, and that of his then-girlfriend, Lashawn Rue.
She testified that Wade was with her the night of the killings, snuggling on the couch and watching TV before falling asleep.
Petulla mocked that testimony saying Rue couldn’t specify when she fell asleep, so she couldn’t be sure of where Wade was that might.
The jury was instructed by the judge after the closing arguments.
Petulla was hoping the jury would find Wade guilty of first-degree murder, a premeditated killing with malice that carries life in prison, or third-degree murder, a malicious killing carrying up to 40 years in prison.
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