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Prank calls continue to plague grieving Greensburg women

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Two more women grieving for departed loved ones reported to Greensburg police that a male called them last month and claimed he was holding relatives hostage.

The calls, which police believe are “disheartening” pranks, were reported to authorities on Wednesday.

Both women contacted police after seeing media accounts of two earlier incidents with similar circumstances, police Chief Walter “Wally” Lyons said on Thursday.

“It appears that someone has a very poor sense of humor,” Lyons said. “These types of harassing phone calls on grieving elderly citizens we take extremely seriously, and we're going to pursue this until it's concluded with a prosecution.”

Authorities have surmised the caller has read newspaper obituaries before placing the calls. The caller knows the names of relatives and is aware the women contacted are mourning a loved one, police said.

In the latest two reports, the women's sisters had died recently, police said.

About 8 a.m. on Dec. 15, a South Hamilton Avenue woman received a call from a male who claimed to be keeping two relatives naked in a nearby room, police said.

On Dec. 20, a Mt. Odin Drive woman received a call from a male who said he had strip-searched a female relative, authorities said. The woman hung up.

Police found that the family members were safe.

The caller didn't demand money during any of the calls, though in most cases the women hung up quickly, police said.

The male offered similar scenarios in the first two calls reported to police.

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.

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

When the woman asked where the man was calling from, he hung up, authorities said.

The daughter was found to be safe, police said.

Greensburg police have contacted other local police departments to find out whether they are investigating similar calls.

On Thursday, police were investigating a fifth possible call made to an Allegheny County residence.

Anyone receiving such a call should hang up and immediately contact the police department serving their community, Lyons said.

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

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