Defense attorneys drop effort to examine program linking Wade DNA to East Liberty homicides

Matthew Santoni
| Friday, March 18, 2016, 5:42 p.m.

Defense attorneys for Allen Wade, who is accused of killing sisters Susan and Sarah Wolfe in their East Liberty home in 2014, are dropping an effort to look deeper at the computer program that tied Wade's DNA to the murder.

Attorneys for Wade, 45, filed an application Thursday to withdraw their appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. That appeal sought to overturn Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski's denial of the source code for TrueAllele, a computer program used by Oakland-based Cybergenetics to say it was likely Wade contributed to a mix of DNA found on sweatpants recovered from a trash can near Sarah Wolfe's car, a hat found at the Wolfes' house after an earlier burglary, and material under the nails of Susan Wolfe.

The attorneys, public defenders Lisa Middleman, Lisa Phillips, Aaron Sontz and Scott Rudolf, could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors paid to use the TrueAllele analysis when the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's crime lab could not definitively say that some of the DNA on those items came from Wade.

A similar appeal for the program's source code, so defense attorneys can more thoroughly question expert Dr. Mark Perlin, was filed in another death-penalty homicide case against Michael Robinson of Duquesne. Common Pleas Judge Jill Rangos had denied Robinson's attorneys access to the code on the grounds that it could expose Cybergenetics' trade secrets.

The application does not say why Wade's attorneys are dropping their appeal, for which Borkowski had delayed the trial originally scheduled to start early this month. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala is seeking the death penalty.

Public Defender Elliot Howsie said the issue could still be raised in the event Wade is convicted.

“Since the Superior Court has failed to act after thirty days, the defendant, in consultation with his defense team, felt that delaying the trial any further would serve no benefit,” he said. “Any further delay would result in moving the case to start in September, if not later.”

Hints of the defense strategy may be found in two other filings this week related to the case: a motion to introduce alibi testimony from his girlfriend, LaShaun Rue, that Wade was in his home from 8 p.m. Feb. 6 until 12:45 a.m. Feb. 7; and a motion to suppress a dark blue knit cap found at the Wolfes' house following a burglary Dec. 30, 2013. Wade lived next door to the Wolfes.

In the latter motion, defense attorney Lisa Middleman wrote that without the sisters to testify exactly where the cap was found, it can't be proven that it was originally inside the house. She asked that a police officer, who believed the December burglary was the work of a neighbor, either to provide a report detailing how he came to that conclusion and what expertise he had, or keep that testimony from appearing in Wade's trial.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Do you want to help us improve our commenting platform?
Click here to take this a survey.

Show commenting policy