New Kensington man whose mother was found dead in duct-taped room faces 62 charges
A New Kensington man faces 62 criminal charges in connection with an August incident in which authorities found his mother dead in her Victoria Avenue house with the vents and door of her room duct-taped shut, court records show.
Most of the charges filed against Robert Aaron Hawk, 48, are related to the alleged mistreatment of animals, including two felony counts of aggravated cruelty of animals and 57 counts of animal neglect.
Hawk, who said he had been the primary caretaker of his 69-year-old mother, Marcia Smock, also faces two felony theft charges and a misdemeanor count of abuse of a corpse.
A criminal complaint filed in the case said Hawk allowed Smock’s body to “decompose over the course of approximately two months.”
Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said Friday he hasn’t ruled on the cause and manner of death because the case is classified as an open investigation.
Hawk was arraigned Friday morning before District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. in New Kensington.
Hawk, who uses a cane to walk, testified during the hearing that he is a disabled paramedic who formerly worked in Pittsburgh. The father of three grown children said he lives on New Kensington’s Earl Street and isn’t working.
Hawk was released Friday after posting a percentage of the $15,000 bond set by Pallone. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23. Hawk said he likely will seek legal representation from a public defender.
At least 19 cats were removed from the house at 1234½ Victoria Ave. after authorities found Smock’s body there Aug. 8.
According to the criminal complaint, Hawk said he found his mother lying on a floor one morning and knew because of his previous EMT training that she was “beyond resuscitation.”
Hawk told investigators he thought she died in early June, about two months before her discovery by authorities following a wellness check request to police by an Area Agency on Aging employee, the complaint said.
Hawk told police he didn’t report her death because he was “in disbelief.” He said he only checked on her once between the time she died and when police entered the house, according to the complaint.
Police said Hawk put the duct tape around the door and vents of the room where his mother’s remains were found.
Police and animal rescue staff said Friday they had to wear respirators because of the foul odor of garbage, the 19 malnourished and neglected cats and the bodies of Smock and a dog and a cat found inside. Two of the surviving cats had to have all of their teeth removed, the complaint said.
Hawk kept three months of Smock’s Social Security checks totaling almost $6,000 after her death, according to the complaint. Police said he told investigators he used the money to pay bills.
Detective Sgt. Matt Saxman said he worked with federal officials, who agreed the theft charges should be filed in county court. Saxman consulted with Frankie’s Friends staff to determine that animal neglect charges were appropriate to file.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .