The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 10, 2014

Iowa mourns Wolfe family tragedy

By Brenden West
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Tragic news from Pennsylvania reached the ears of Clinton residents early Saturday morning when a tearful state senator addressed them.

State Rep. Mary Wolfe was absent from the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee despite meeting with business leaders less than a day before. One of Wolfe’s friends from the Legislature, Sen. Rita Hart, told the audience Saturday that shortly after Friday’s town hall meeting in Clinton, Wolfe learned her sisters -- Susan and Sarah Wolfe -- were found dead in their East Liberty, Penn. home near Pittsburgh.

“It’s just, pretty horrific and the Wolfe family are, you know, they’re good people so it’s hard,” Hart said through a thickened voice. “So, I’m sure that you will all reach out to them and we’ll get through this like everything else.

“We’re going to keep her in our prayers and our thoughts and do whatever we can to support her through this.”

Pittsburgh authorities were called to the 700 block of Chislett Street, East Liberty on Friday when Susan Wolfe didn’t show up to work. A friend of the Wolfes let police into the home, where they discovered what is now being called a homicide.

The sisters were pronounced dead at 1:48 p.m. Eastern Time, and the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Sunday they died of single gunshot wounds to the head.

Sarah and Susan were two of eight children in the John Wolfe family. Sarah Wolfe, 38, moved to Pittsburgh several years ago and was a pediatrician and psychologist who worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Susan Wolfe, 44, had recently joined her sister in Pennsylvania and was working as a teacher’s aide.

Both previously lived in Clinton. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The news has grieved Mary Wolfe’s fellow legislators. Rep. Steve Olson of DeWitt joined Rep. Wolfe in Clinton on Friday shortly before she received a call from Allegheny County authorities. Olson said he spent the weekend notifying fellow legislators.

“This is more drastic than anything we’ve had in the past,” he said on Saturday.

Hart said she considers Rep. Wolfe a close friend.

“Mary has been extremely instrumental in helping me,” Hart said. “Everyone is extremely empathetic to the Wolfe family and it’s just a horrible tragedy. We’ll do everything we can to support them.”

The Wolfe family was reached at John Wolfe’s law office and declined comment to the Clinton Herald. Family members worked through the weekend to prepare obituaries for Susan and Sarah Wolfe.

Rep. Wolfe told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that her family was still trying to gather information.

“Right this minute, we’re still trying to figure out what happened,” she said to the Gazette. “They were both incredible people, and we would like their friends and colleagues to know a little bit more about them and how much we appreciate their thoughts and wishes.”

Authorities conducted an autopsy on Saturday. The Gazette reported the Wolfe sisters had other injuries such as bruises. Dr. Karl Williams said those injuries did not contribute to the deaths of the sisters, according to the Gazette.

“Both Sarah and Susan (Wolfe) the cause of death (was a) gunshot wound to the head,” said an official from the Allegheny County Medical Examiners office. He confirmed their manner of death was a homicide.

After finding the deceased, Pittsburgh Police found a car away from the scene which they believe belonged to one of the sisters. The Gazette reported a lime green 2011 Ford Fiesta was found at 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

The Gazette reported police believe the murder suspect stole the vehicle. It was found roughly a mile away from the homicide.

Pittsburgh Police Lt. Daniel Hermann said police are conducting an active investigation into the deaths, according to the Gazette.

News of the tragedy spread quickly among state leaders. Iowa House Majority Leader Mark Smith has said Wolfe is taking time off from her duties. Olson said some legislators are preparing to attend funeral services.

“Of course, some of the close friends of Mary’s had gotten wind of this and contacted majority leader (Mark) Smith,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Wolfe thanked the local community on Facebook for its outreach during the difficult time.

“Thank you to my friends and neighbors and colleagues and to Suzy’s and Sarah’s friends and neighbors and colleagues for all of the lovely thoughts and prayers and food and support that my family has received over the past 24 hours - we are so grateful,” she wrote. “Heartbroken, but grateful.”