Leechburg police seek clues in murder-suicide
Monday, September 21, 2009
By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No one knows for sure just how long Jason Daugherty lay in wait before he fatally shot his former live-in girlfriend and wounded her new boyfriend before killing himself.
"We'll probably never know," said Leechburg Patrolman Dan Anthony of the murder-suicide that broke the nighttime silence early Saturday in the tiny borough along the Kiski River.
In fact, little is known except that Mr. Daugherty, 30, had hidden behind a fence at the home he and Vanessa Nickzad had once shared at 449 First St., popping out and shooting the 25-year-old woman and her new boyfriend, Samuel Walker, 29, as they returned home just after midnight. A pile of cigarette butts behind the fence would seem to indicate he had waited for some time, the officer acknowledged.
When Ms. Nickzad and Mr. Walker arrived home from an outing, Mr. Daugherty shot Mr. Walker with a shotgun then turned the weapon on Ms. Nickzad, the mother of two children -- one of whom was fathered by Mr. Daugherty.
Armstrong County Coroner Robert Bower said that Ms. Nickzad was shot twice -- once in the head and once in the abdomen.
Mr. Walker received superficial wounds to his head and neck, was treated at a Pittsburgh hospital, then was released. Mr. Walker could not be reached for comment.
After shooting the couple outside, Mr. Daugherty entered the house and shot himself with his 12-gauge pump action shotgun.
Officer Anthony said neither of the children, whose names and ages weren't available, were home. They were apparently being cared for by Mrs. Nickzad's mother.
Officer Anthony said trouble had been brewing for some time between the estranged couple. Ms. Nickzad had obtained a protection from abuse order against Mr. Daugherty following a July incident in which he had been charged with assaulting her.
Despite the PFA, the couple continued to communicate with each other about the children, Ms. Nickzad told police, according to an incident report. But, on Sept. 14, things grew more sour. Officer Anthony said Ms. Nickzad called police to report that Mr. Daugherty was being belligerent. The officer said she was advised to seek a phone contact restriction and an officer called Mr. Daugherty to warn him against harassing Ms. Nickzad.
Officer Anthony said police were summoned by 911 dispatchers early Saturday after Mr. Walker ran to several nearby homes, knocking and asking for safe harbor. No one let him in but one neighbor called for help. "It was the middle of the night. They were probably scared," the officer said of the neighbors' response to Mr. Walker's plight.
Mr. Daugherty had been living with his father in Plum, according to a Plum police dispatcher.
Meanwhile, a missing person bulletin was issued late Saturday for a woman who is believed to have been living with Mr. Daugherty and his father. The bulletin was issued by South Fayette police after her parents contacted authorities, saying they are concerned about her safety.
Police are trying to find Rebecca Marie Dryer. She is 26 years old, 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. Sgt. Ronald Lazzini said the woman has brown hair and eyes, has the words "Bella Louise" tattooed on her back, and her right foot has been amputated.
Anyone who has any information about her whereabouts is asked to call the dispatch center at 412-279-6911.
Staff writer Paula Reed Ward contributed. Karen Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 724-772-9180.[wp angelfury] Whos Killing Families?.