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Neighbor is in police custody in deaths of East Liberty sisters

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 10:47 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Allen Wade, 43, of East Liberty is escorted in handcuffs from police headquarters on the North Side by Pittsburgh police, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, after he was charged in the shooting deaths of Susan and Sarah Wolfe who were found dead in their Chislett Street home on February 7.
Allen Wade, 43, walks out of Pittsburgh police headquarters on the North Side on Feb. 20 after being questioned by police about the shooting deaths of two East Liberty sisters. Detectives questioned Wade for several hours and released him. On Wednesday they charged him with the deaths of Susan Wolfe, 44 and Sarah Wolfe, 38, who were found dead inside their Chislett Street home on Feb. 7.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Police Commander Timothy O'Connor directs Lt. Jason Lando in securing the scene in front of 701 and 703 Chislett St. in East Liberty on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Bouquets of flowers lay on the steps of the home of two sisters who were found dead last week. Police secured the neighboring house as they continued their investigation.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Flowers were left out front of a house police were keeping watch over in the 700 block of Chislett Street on Feb. 20, 2014 in East Liberty. The second house from the left had a red police poster sealing the house shut as a crime scene. The house was shared by slain sisters Susan Wolfe, 44 and Sarah Wolfe, 38.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Police officers stand outside 703 Chislett St. in East Liberty on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, at the apartment of a neighbor of two sisters who were found dead in their home at 701 Chislett (on left).

Before he shot and killed two East Liberty women, Pittsburgh police say, Allen Wade forced them to tell him the personal identification numbers to their bank cards.

Surveillance video and DNA evidence led police on Wedneday to charge Wade, 43, with homicide, robbery, burglary and other crimes. Police detectives interviewed a man and a woman in connection with the sisters' deaths hours later but declined to say why.

“We have several theories relating to motive, but it's too early to conclude exactly what the motive was,” Lt. Kevin Kraus said of the case that rattled a neighborhood and led detectives to the next-door neighbor of Susan and Sarah Wolfe, a convicted bank robber who proclaimed his innocence in a Facebook posting before surrendering.

Family and friends of the women could not be reached.

Wade lived in an apartment next to the Chislett Street home where the sisters were found dead in their basement on Feb. 7.

“I'm 100 percent innocent. I didn't do anything wrong,” Wade said as detectives took him from police headquarters to the Allegheny County Jail. He used a cane and wore a Pittsburgh Steelers stocking hat and glasses. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney.

DNA from a bloodstain on a pair of discarded sweatpants links Wade to the crime, according to a criminal complaint.

“It is a case that involved a high level of video surveillance evidence and DNA evidence,” Kraus said.

Wade learned from news reports that police sought him and posted a rambling statement on Facebook: “I am 100 percent innocent I would never ever in any way Hurt a person so brutally it is not in my nature I have always respected women and will always continue to do so I am being framed to take the fall for this case and hopefully justice will prevail ! I appreciate all of you who pray for me and I love my family God bless I am going to turn myself in.”

Detectives picked Wade up at a bus stop in Rankin. Police had questioned him for hours on Feb. 19 and 20 because they suspected he was the person they saw on surveillance video after the killings. Police released him but called him a person of interest.

State police records show Wade bought eight handguns between 1997 and 2002, city police said. One gun was sold or transferred, but police had no record that he sold the other guns. Records kept by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show police recovered four of the guns, but not two 9 mm guns or a Star .45-caliber.

Officers found Susan Wolfe, 44, naked and doused with bleach and liquid detergent. Sarah Wolfe, 38, was clothed, with a blanket over her head and some detergent on her, the complaint stated. Both had been shot once in the head.

Police said the suspect took Susan Wolfe's ID card, credit cards, bank cards, keys and cellphone, leaving her empty purse on the floor. Similar items belonging to Sarah Wolfe were missing. It's not known whether police recovered any of the belongings.

There was no sign of forced entry at the house. An alarm system shows the front door opened five times during the evening before police found their bodies.

Kraus said robbery and sexual assault could be motives for the killings, though the women were not sexually assaulted.

“We don't know why he entered the house,” Kraus said.

He said police questioned Wade when canvassing the neighborhood but did not consider him a suspect. Wade changed his appearance after the women's deaths, Kraus said: “He looked significantly different in the canvass than he did in the surveillance video. We believe it was intentional.”

The victims' PNC Bank accounts showed that someone used their debit cards to withdraw about $600 from a Citizens Bank ATM in East Liberty after midnight on Feb. 7, police said. Video surveillance from the ATM showed a person in gray sweatpants, a red hooded sweatshirt and bright white shoes. A dark glove covered the right hand and the left hand was inside a sleeve. The person's face was covered.

Video from other businesses tracked a man wearing bright white shoes as he walked away from abandoning Sarah Wolfe's car and toward the ATM, police said. In one video, the man's left hand gave detectives the clue that the suspect was black.

Video shows him taking off the sweatpants near a Midas Muffler Shop. Police on Feb. 8 found the pants, with a business card that belonged to an associate of Susan Wolfe's in one pocket.

DNA testing from a bloodstain on the sweatpants matched a sample from Wade, investigators said. Male and female DNA from beneath Susan Wolfe's fingernails could not exclude Wade “as a contributor to this mixture,” the police complaint stated.

The man, still wearing the noticeable shoes, walked to a Sunoco gas station at 1:08 a.m. Feb. 7 and threw something into a garbage can, police said one video showed. He bought two packs of Newport cigarettes in the store. Police later recognized the man as Wade.

Detectives found a pen stamped with lettering indicating it came from the Iowa prison system. Kraus said police believe the pen came from either the home or vehicle of the women , who were from Iowa.

After police questioned Wade, his landlord moved to evict him for not paying his rent. Police said he no longer appeared to be staying in the house.

Anita Wilcox, the mother of Wade's girlfriend, called him a “scapegoat.” She said police searched her home on Monday night.

“I really don't believe he killed those two women,” Wilcox said. “He's a scapegoat. It doesn't fit his profile.”

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report.

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