Housing authority tried to evict Springdale Manor resident charged in stabbing

| Sunday, June 29, 2014, 12:04 a.m.

The Allegheny County Housing Authority previously tried to evict a resident of the Springdale Manor high-rise accused of stabbing two women and assaulting a third there on Friday, the agency's police chief said Saturday.

Charles Azim, 73, remained in the Allegheny County Jail on Saturday on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Fellow residents Shirley Barone and Penelope Spencer suffered stab wounds and were taken to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment. Spencer was in serious condition on Saturday, while Barone's condition was unavailable, spokeswoman Stephanie Waite said.

“It's an unfortunate circumstance,” said housing authority police Chief Mike Vogel. “It's uncharacteristic for that building. It's an isolated incident.”

The apartment building, in the 500 block of Pittsburgh Street, is operated by the housing authority and has more than 90 residential units.

The incident began on Friday with an argument between Barone and Azim about 7 p.m. in Barone's apartment, Allegheny County police wrote in a criminal complaint.

When Barone fled to Spencer's apartment, Azim followed and began stabbing her multiple times, police wrote. Spencer fled to her bathroom and pulled an alarm cord, activating an alarm.

As Spencer tried to leave her apartment, according to police, Azim started stabbing her before she escaped to another apartment.

Linda Simmers, a monitor on the sixth floor where the incident occurred, told police that she went to investigate when she heard the alarm. When she entered Spencer's apartment, she saw Azim standing above Barone, brandishing a knife, police wrote.

Simmers shouted for Azim to stop before he approached her and Spencer. Azim allegedly punched Simmers in the back of the head, then turned and stabbed Spencer repeatedly before both women fled.

Barone was flown to Allegheny General Hospital, and Spencer was taken there by ambulance. Simmers was treated in UPMC St. Margaret hospital near Aspinwall.

Azim was taken into custody soon after the incident.

Court records show that Azim has a lengthy criminal record and, in 1978, briefly escaped from a Philadelphia prison.

Azim had lived in the building for seven years, according to Vogel, and passed a background check that looks back about five years.

The authority had tried to evict Azim when he was accused of making threats against a female resident, Vogel said.

But during a hearing, Vogel said, the woman acted as a character witness for Azim, so the authority was unable to evict him.

Neighbors said Azim had been suffering ongoing health problems. They said at least one of the women involved in the incident helped care for him.

Criminal record

Azim has a lengthy criminal record, some of which involves violence.

Under the name Charles Mitchell, Azim was arrested for eight incidents between 1971 and 1993.

• He was sentenced to three to 20 years in prison after being convicted in 1971 of aggravated robbery.

• In 1975, he was found guilty on two counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery for separate incidents that July. Both convictions carried a one-year minimum prison sentence.

• He was found guilty under the Mitchell name in 1994 on charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct from an incident the previous September. The conviction carried a maximum probation period of one year.

• In 1978, Azim was convicted on charges of simple assault, robbery and conspiracy from an incident the year prior.

• He was sent to a Philadelphia prison, from which he escaped in May 1978 and was recaptured less than two days later. He was sentenced to an additional three to seven years in 1979 for the escape.

In 1983, Azim appealed his original convictions and the robbery charge was withdrawn. The convictions for robbery and conspiracy rendered a sentence of between five and 10 years.

• He was arrested in 1989 on charges of drug possession and receiving stolen property. He was sentenced to 18 months to three years in prison.

• In a case stemming from an aggravated assault in May 2000, Azim was sentenced to between eight and 16 years in prison.

State court records show the incident occurred in Allegheny County but don't indicate in which municipality the crime occurred. However, a Pittsburgh woman had filed a protection from abuse order against him that month.

• Allegheny County court records show that Azim pleaded guilty to an incident last August that involved defiant trespass. Frazer police filed those charges.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

Staff writers Liz Hayes, Mary Ann Thomas and Braden Ashe contributed to this report.

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