Laura Giacchino of Greensburg knew something was amiss Sunday morning at her cousin Anita M. Sabol's residence in Hempfield Towers when Sabol wouldn't talk on the telephone with Laura's mother, Mary.
“I knew something was wrong and told mom that S.O.B., Rodney (Golden), had to be there because Anita, no matter what her troubles, would always take a telephone call from her Aunt Mary. Anita told my mom she would call her back in an hour,” Giacchino said.
About five hours after that telephone call, the Giacchinos learned from a family friend at the apartment building that Anita had been wounded with a knife and was on her way to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg. Sabol's throat had been slashed, police said.
“We initially thought she had been stabbed in the back. But when they put us in the special room at the hospital for the doctor to talk to us ... we knew it was really bad. ... It is just incomprehensible someone would ever do that to Anita,” Giacchino said.
Sabol, 56, died, and her killer, Rodney L. Golden, 41, of Greensburg, was shot and killed by a state trooper outside the Westmoreland County Housing Authority complex on South Grande Boulevard.
Trooper Steven Limani said police officers responded to the apartment building when a neighbor reported a domestic incident about 12:25 p.m. on the third floor, where Sabol lived.
“(The neighbor) went out into the hallway. He saw a female that seemed in distress, and he saw a male actually grab a knife and cut her across the throat,” Limani said.
Sabol died of blood loss because her jugular vein was cut, Limani said, citing findings from an autopsy on Monday by Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates of Pittsburgh.
Police said Golden then ran outside the complex, where he was confronted by seven officers, including two state troopers and police officers from South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg and Greensburg.
Police said Golden ignored repeated commands, and officers deployed stun guns. The weapons were not effective, however, because the electrodes could not get through the layers of heavy clothing worn by Golden.
Limani said a trooper, whom police have not identified, fired when a knife-wielding Golden lunged at the officer.
The trooper has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
At a news conference on Monday, Limani defended the officers' actions.
“The officers who responded attempted to use less-lethal force. But only two (of 11 electrodes that struck Golden) were able to penetrate to the skin ... and the Taser was not effective,” Limani said.
Limani said the trooper shot Golden twice in the “abdomen area” because Golden lunged at the officer with the same knife used to slash Sabol's throat.
“We're trained that there is a reaction gap of 21 feet between someone carrying a knife and the time it takes to react (using deadly force), and this occurred well within that distance. They were in very close proximity, and they were doing everything possible to subdue him using nonlethal force,” Limani said.
Laura Giacchino said Sabol and Golden had been in a relationship marked by turmoil for “four or five years.”
“He abused her ... beat her, but she just could not shake him. She'd leave, but then get back together,” Giacchino said.
Court records show that Golden had been charged by state police with simple assault in Hempfield for striking Sabol in August, but those charges subsequently were dismissed at a scheduled preliminary hearing on Oct. 25.
“We cut contact off with her for awhile because we knew he was bad for her, and thought it might get her to leave him,” Giacchino said.
“I loved her like a sister, and she was a second mother to my son, Dillon. She took care of my son about five or six years ago, when he was 6 or 7 years old, when I was working,” Giacchino said.
Sabol changed when she met Golden, her cousin said.
“She was fun and really good-hearted. We laughed so much. But after she met him, she spiraled down. ... Their relationship was like a roller coaster,” Giacchino said.
On Dec. 3, 2009, Golden and Sabol were arrested by Greensburg police outside the Point Bar and Grill on East Otterman Street, where Sabol reportedly got into a fight with a female bar patron who formerly dated Golden.
Officers subsequently took Golden and Sabol outside, where Sabol was subsequently charged with public drunkenness and then began resisting arrest.
Golden began scuffling with officers, according to police reports, scratching Sgt. John Swank's neck. Golden was charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and obstructing justice. Sabol was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.
Golden formerly worked as a house painter but had lost his driver's license because of a 2010 conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on a suspended license, also in Greensburg, as a result of a previous drunken-driving conviction.
Police said Sabol was a tenant at the apartments, and Golden was her boyfriend.
Hempfield Towers tenant Charlotte King said that people were still talking about the tragedy.
“I was shocked when I came home and found out what happened. But people seem to be returning to normal now,” King said.
Mike Washowich, housing authority executive director, concurred.
“I was there for a couple hours (Monday morning) and there was some understandable nervousness. But it's getting back to normal now. People are getting back into their routines,” he said.
Although the deaths were a “terrible, unfortunate tragedy,” Washowich said he believes the 202-unit building is secure.
“We cannot control who is let into the building. From what I gather ... he was an acquaintance or boyfriend of a tenant,” he said.
He said residents use key cards to enter, and the apartments are equipped with cameras that tenants can use to screen visitors before permitting them entry.
Coroner Ken Bacha routinely schedules inquests into fatal shootings involving police officers. Limani said the officer's identity will be disclosed at the inquest. Toxicology results will not be available for several weeks.
Pantalone Funeral Home in Greensburg is handling funeral arrangements for Sabol.
Brooks Funeral Home of Mt. Pleasant is handling funeral arrangements for Golden.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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