Suspect in East Liberty slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
A man accused of killing two Pittsburgh women became embroiled in a murder-for-hire case while jailed in Westmoreland County last year for stealing a diamond ring, officials said on Wednesday.
District Attorney John Peck said Allen Wade, 43, provided information that enabled state police at Greensburg in October to charge Lee J. Atwood, 55, of Irwin with solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder for repeatedly asking another inmate to kill a witness in his homicide case.
Peck would not say whether Wade was the inmate Atwood approached. Court documents identify the potential hitman only as a confidential informant.
Wade is being held without bail in the Allegheny County Jail, accused of robbing and killing East Liberty sisters Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38, in their Chislett Street home last month. Court records do not list an attorney.
Atwood is charged with shooting George R. “Moose” Williams, 46, of Yukon at a South Huntingdon home on Aug. 12.
Wade joined Atwood in the Westmoreland County Prison a little more than a week later. He surrendered to state police Aug. 22 on charges that he stole a wedding ring worth almost $3,000 while delivering a refrigerator to a Cook Township home.
“I've been living in fear since the theft of my ring happened … worried he'd get out of jail and come back after me for reporting it. I didn't even know he was out of jail from my case until you called,” said Ella Gasper, 77.
Gasper said she did not realize the suspect in her case is the man Pittsburgh police arrested on Wednesday on charges of fatally shooting the Wolfe sisters and stealing their bank debit cards and car. Police found their bodies Feb. 7 in the basement of their home. Wade was a next-door neighbor.
Prosecutors said Atwood approached an unidentified inmate in September with an offer to kill Adam Lilliock, 53, who owns the home where Williams was killed.
State trooper Thomas Hartley wrote in an affidavit that Atwood offered an inmate $750 in advance and $750 to be paid later.
Wade's public defender at the time, Deborah Jackson, asked a judge to reduce Wade's bail in September. Peck's office did not consent to the reduction, according to court records, but Westmoreland Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway reduced the $25,000 bail set by District Judge Denise Thiel to $1 on Sept. 25.
Hathaway could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Gasper said she knew Wade took her ring when he delivered her refrigerator, but she was too scared to confront one of “two big men.” Wade and another man working for Liberty Transportation carried the refrigerator without a dolly, she told police.
Wade later told police that he discarded the ring because he thought it was fake, according to a criminal complaint.
When Pittsburgh homicide detectives escorted Wade from police headquarters in the North Side on Wednesday, he walked slowly and leaned on a cane. His girlfriend's mother has said he is weak from a recent hospitalization.
“Oh, I think something's really fishy about that, after what I saw him do here less than a year ago,” Gasper said. “I will probably always live in fear of him getting out. But I will go to court in Greensburg to testify against him if I had to.”
Court records show Wade's scheduled January hearing in the theft case was postponed because he was hospitalized, though it does not specify why.
In a request for lower bail in the theft case, Wade told the court that he worked for Liberty Transportation for four months and had a maintenance job awaiting him at the Chislett Street address.
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