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Apparent prankster preys on widows listed in obituaries

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Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 10:40 p.m.

A man apparently used obituaries to carry out what Greensburg police called a “disheartening” and “ill-advised” prank on two recently widowed women during the past two weeks.

A male caller phoned one of the widows on Dec. 15 and the second on Sunday, claiming to have one of the victim's relatives tied up in a room near him, police said.

“It's extremely disheartening to see these kind of things happening, and we're going to do what we can for a quick prosecution,” police Chief Walter “Wally” Lyons said on Monday.

Money doesn't appear to be the motivation for the calls, he said.

“It seems to be more of a prank, an ill-advised prank, than some type of extortion, because there was no request for money,” Lyons said.

“To put more stress on a grieving person is beyond the pale,” he added.

A woman living in the city's 8th Ward received a call about 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The caller said he had the woman's sister-in-law tied up in a nearby room.

The woman hung up immediately and called police, who discovered the relative was safe.

On Dec. 15, a man called a woman living in the 2nd Ward about 9:40 a.m. and said he had the woman's daughter in another room. The man said he had strip-searched the daughter and tied her up.

The woman receiving the call asked where the man was calling from, and he hung up, police said.

The daughter was found to be safe, police said.

Anyone receiving such a call should contact police immediately, Lyons said.

Greensburg police plan to contact other local police departments to find out whether they are investigating similar calls, Lyons said.

At a minimum, the caller could face a charge of harassment by communication.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or

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