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East Vandergrift man who hid father's body in barrel waives preliminary hearing

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
David Jordan Thomas

An East Vandergrift man will stand trial for allegedly keeping his father's dead body inside a barrel in their Kennedy Avenue house for several weeks.

On Tuesday, David Jordan Thomas, 31, waived to court charges including abuse of a corpse.

He also is accused of identity theft and access device fraud for allegedly withdrawing about $3,400 at ATM machines from his father's bank account after his death to pay bills and buy illicit drugs.

Thomas remains in the Westmoreland County jail in lieu of $55,000 bond pending trial.

Westmoreland County Assistant Public Defender Eric Hoffman said his client is slated to receive mental health and drug and alcohol evaluations.

Thomas' 59-year-old father, David F. Thomas, was a disabled Navy veteran who was ill for many years, Vandergrift police and county detectives said. Thomas and his son lived in a small 1½-story Cape Cod-style house at 301 Kennedy Ave.

Police said a neighbor called to say the elder Thomas hadn't been seen for weeks and asked officers to check on him.

When police arrived at the home on June 24, they say, they were met by the son at the door and smelled a foul odor.

According to police, the son took them to the basement at their request and they asked what was inside the 55-gallon blue plastic barrel with its lid clamped shut.

Thomas allegedly told police it contained belongings from his grandmother. The foul smell intensified when he opened the lid to show them some of the clothing inside and suggest that nothing else was inside.

But the barrel tipped over and part of the deceased's partially decomposed body slid out, police said.

The accused later told police that he found his father dead and he initially wrapped him in blankets and put him in the basement. He said he later bought a barrel and had it delivered to the house.

Once it arrived, police said Thomas told them, he took it to the basement and put his father inside.

After an autopsy, Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha ruled David F. Thomas died from “unknown natural causes.” The autopsy revealed “no sign of trauma or foul play.”

Funeral services for Thomas have not been announced.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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