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Police: Daughter Hit Mother With Hammer, Bound Her With Duct Tape, Tried To Strangle Her

GREENSBURG (KDKA) – State police have arrested and filed charges against the daughter of a woman who was found beaten to death in her home in Westmoreland County Thursday evening.

Authorities say 25-year-old Sarah Vercauteren of Export is facing charges of criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy counts.

KDKA's Christine D'Antonio Reports:

Police say Vercauteren's mother, 51-year-old Dawn Wagner, was found dead around 6:45 p.m. Thursday in her trailer on Hawk Drive in Salem Township.

Wagner had only lived in the trailer park for a few months.

"She seemed nice to me," said neighbor Courtney Miller. "I mean, she talked to my kids when they'd be outside playing and she talked to my husband a few times. I talked to her once, she seemed very nice to me."

According to investigators, Vercauteren and her mother got into an argument on New Year's Eve about using Wagner's vehicle.

In a rage, investigators say Vercauteren took a hammer from a kitchen drawer and beat her mother, hitting her in the head, as she tried to get away.

Police say Vercauteren then allegedly dragged her mother's body into the bathroom, used duct tape to tie up her mother's hands and legs and then tried to strangle her.

"She bound her mother's hands and legs with duct tape to prevent her from trying to escape in case she was unconscious and she came back to life," said Trooper Steve Limani, of Pennsylvania State Police.

KDKA's Ross Guidotti Reports:

Police say Vercauteren then took her mother's cell phone and returned text messages pretending to be her mother so no one would suspect anything was wrong.

On Tuesday, seven days after the murder, police arrested Vercauteren on charges she robbed a PNC Bank in Versailles.

Police caught up with her shortly after the robbery and found her 2-year-old child also in the car. Police say she had gotten away with $320. She had been in the Allegheny County Jail since then.

But from New Year's Eve until her arrest on Wednesday on those bank robbery charges, police say Vercauteren returned to and lived in the trailer with her child and her mother's body.

"From everything we were able to gather, he was present when the altercation took place and she had taken the child with her when she left and the child was with her doing some of her other activities as she left and traveled around the area," said Trooper Limani.

Wagner had custody after her daughter's child.

KDKA's Trina Orlando Reports:

Two days after the robbery arrest, Wagner's body was found inside the home. Her estranged husband found her body after her got a concerned call from the people she worked with.

They told him she had not been to work for several days.

An autopsy on Wagner's body was scheduled for today.

Vercauteren, who officials say has been very cooperative with police about the murder, reportedly described in detail to authorities her alleged severe heroin addiction.

She is now being held in the Westmoreland County Jail without bond.

The Westmoreland County District Attorney says it's too soon to tell if he'll seek the death penalty in the case.

Police: Suspected Bank Robber Found Driving Around With 2-Year-Old Son (1/8/14)
Police Probe Suspicious Death In Salem Twp. (1/9/14)
More Salem Township News
More Westmoreland County News

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