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Sister likely walked in on killing in East Liberty

- Sarah Wolfe, left, and Susan Wolfe.
Sarah Wolfe, left, and Susan Wolfe.

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By Megan Harris and Margaret Harding
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

By the time Sarah Wolfe arrived at her East Liberty home on Thursday night, something deadly was in motion.

Police found the bodies of sisters Susan — naked and doused with chemicals — and Sarah Wolfe at the foot of their basement stairs about 12:45 p.m. Friday with single gunshots in their heads.

Investigators suspect Susan died first.

The 44-year-old teacher's aide was beaten and possibly dragged into the Chislett Street basement, according to two sources. Police think the killer might have removed her clothes in an effort to clean up the scene.

Her sister, Sarah, 38, was found fully clothed nearby with her coat only half-removed.

Detectives are reviewing surveillance video from the Port Authority that shows Susan getting off a bus at the same time as an unidentified man. Officials are seeking video from other cameras in the area as they try to determine who killed the sisters and why.

Investigators think the killer took both their cellphones and Sarah's lime green Ford Fiesta, which officers found parked nearby two days later.

The Wolfe family announced plans for a joint funeral service in Iowa, where the two grew up. A wake is planned for the Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Clinton, Iowa, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday with Mass to follow at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said investigators have a potential suspect.

He wouldn't identify the man or describe his connection to the sisters, but Zappala said detectives made “a great deal” of progress on the case and met with officials in his office that morning.

Former Allegheny County coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht said he can't recall a case in which a perpetrator used chemicals to cover a crime.

“It depends on the type of chemical, how much was used and whether it was sprayed, poured or hosed over the body,” Wecht said. “Prints aren't something you can wipe away unless the liquid has the viscosity to eat into your pores.”

Police officers stepped up patrols in and around the neighborhood, Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor said.

The Wolfe sisters exuded warmth and decency, the kind of colleagues and scholars “drawn to helping those who could not help themselves,” the family wrote.

Dr. Sarah Wolfe, a triple board certified psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic in Oakland, a consultant with Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, moved to the city after earning her medical degree from the University of Iowa in 2007.

Susan “Suzy” Wolfe, a teacher's aide at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill, joined her four months ago, just before Sarah bought the $210,000 Chislett Street house in December.

Kelly Carter, 42, of Lawrenceville was Sarah's landlord and neighbor for three years. Their homes in Sheraden shared a yard, she said.

“I keep referring to them as girls,” she said. “They had a young sort of attitude, a lot of energy, really happy.”

Carter provided the name and phone number of a window company after a burglar broke in to the East Liberty home, she said. Sarah had an alarm system installed, and the two exchanged text messages lamenting the woes of homeownership.

Police said they have a suspect for the burglary, but they don't think it's connected to the killing.

Megan Harris and Margaret Harding are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Adam Brandolph contributed to this report.

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