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Criminologist: Killer of sisters in Pittsburgh neighborhood an 'organized planner'

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 10:26 p.m.

A noted criminologist said whoever killed two East Liberty sisters earlier this month likely was after “control, greed and power.”

There weren't many developments in the case on Friday, and police were reluctant to discuss robbery as a possible motive in the slaying of Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38, who were found shot to death on Feb. 7 in their Chislett Street home.

Police have questioned a “person of interest,” who lives next door, but have not publicly identified him.

Dr. Laura Pettler, a forensic criminologist, theorized based on news reports that the case involves control, greed and power. She said the culprit likely has a criminal history of robberies or burglaries.

“He wants to feel power,” said Pettler, who also is a review board member of the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases. “In this case, it sounds like he thought they had money or they had something he could take.”

Police suspect Susan Wolfe, a teacher's aide, died first. They found her body naked and doused with bleach. Her sister, a psychiatrist, was fully clothed nearby with her coat half-removed.

Pettler said the use of bleach could indicate the suspect knows his DNA is part of a national database, and wanted to remove any trace of it from the scene.

“This is a smart guy,” Pettler said. “This is an organized planner.”

Police have collected items for possible DNA testing, but have not shared details.

Investigators said surveillance video of the suspect obtained from businesses in East Liberty after he abandoned Sarah Wolfe's stolen car shows him with a hood pulled up and his face covered as he walks. He seemed aware of the cameras, police said.

“It's still an attempt to control the circumstances,” Pettler said. “He's still controlling what's going on. He's saying, ‘You can't see me.' … He knows he's at a high risk for detection, so he's taking precautions.”

The video trail ends at the Home Depot on North Highland Avenue, but surveillance video taken a short time later at the Sunoco shows a man of a similar build in different clothes buying cigarettes, sources said.

Police suspected the man they took in for questioning on Wednesday to be the same person, sources said.

The man's landlord, David L. Williams, moved to evict him for not paying rent. Williams filed a landlord/tenant complaint the day police released the man from questioning, writing that the man and his girlfriend owed $685 in rent and caused $970 in damages to the Chislett Street apartment.

Williams could not be reached for comment. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Thursday.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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