PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Police have charged a man in connection with the death of a Brackenridge woman.
On Monday, Justin Bartlett, 25, was taken into custody in Fairmont, West Virginia.
Today, he was charged with homicide, burglary, theft and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of 63-year-old Linda McGinnis, his next door neighbor in Brackenridge.
In a police affidavit, Bartlett is quoted as telling Allegheny County Homicide Detectives on Monday evening at the Fairmont Police station where he was interrogated that he’d been trying to borrow a car so he could get out of town. He wanted to leave Pennsylvania and move to West Virginia.
Bartlett said he and McGinnis were friends and had done handy work for her on her property. He said she had driven him to the store on occasion because he didn’t have a car.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that McGinnis died Friday morning from a chop wound to the head and a stab wound to the neck. She was reported missing Friday by her parents, who also said her car was gone.
McGinnis’ body was found inside her home the next day by police officers.
Authorities found McGinnis’ car in a grocery store parking lot in Mannington, West Virginia. Investigators say Bartlett was in the car with a woman, and that he took off, running away from officers into some nearby woods.
Bartlett was eventually taken into custody near a Rite Aid store in Fairmont. He was taken to their police station for questioning, where police say he “eventually… admitted to killing Linda.”
According to the criminal complaint, he first told investigators he got to West Virginia by cab to meet up with a few girls he met online. When police asked him why he was driving McGinnis’ car, he told them he knew her and even referred to her as “grandma.”
Police say he “eventually admitted to the fact he took her car,” the criminal complaint said. He said he did not have a car or a driver’s license and wanted to surprise a girl he knew in West Virginia on her birthday.
The criminal complaint reports that Bartlett told police he “blacked out” and didn’t remember any details, but then told them “he is mentally sick and needed help.” He said he had not taken his medication for over a year and was afraid to go back to jail.
According to the criminal complaint, Bartlett then told investigators that after talking to the girl he went to meet in West Virginia last week, he packed his belongings and saw McGinnis’ car parked out front. He said he went over to her house, tried to get in though her basement, but when he couldn’t, he broke the window on her back door with a screwdriver.
He began rummaging around the home for her car keys and when he couldn’t find them, he went into her bedroom where she was asleep, the criminal complaint says. Bartlett told investigators that McGinnis’ dog began to growl, he “began to panic,” got a steak knife from her sink and then stabbed her multiple times while she was in bed.
Investigators say he told them he left the knife in the bedroom.
Police say he then found the victim’s keys by the front door, left the home, pulled her car around to the back of his house and loaded all his things into it.
According to investigators, he then put his boots and jeans in the trash, drove to West Virginia, throwing the screwdriver out of the window along the way, and waited until the next morning to knock on the door of the woman he went there to meet.
The criminal complaint reports that Bartlett told police “he did not mean to kill Linda” and “she did not deserve what happened to her.” He said he “only wanted to get a car and leave Pennsylvania to start over.”
Bartlett has a long criminal history and was sentenced to two years in prison back in 2014 after breaking into a man’s home and setting his cat on fire.
He is being held in jail in West Virginia on unrelated charges. Once he is extradited back to Allegheny County, he will be arrested and arraigned on the new charges. He will then be held in the Allegheny County Jail.