Police: Human remains found in 2012 were Dover Twp. man; wife charged with homicide

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Virginia Hayden

A woman has been charged in York County with killing her husband, who went missing in 2011.

Virginia L. Hayden, 67, of Palms Court in South Middleton Township, Cumberland County, was charged with criminal homicide and several counts of forgery, conspiracy, theft by deception, tampering with public records and receiving stolen property.

She allegedly forged her husband's signature on several documents, including a deed transfer, bank deposit slips, credit card transactions and checks.

Thomas Hayden Sr., of Dover Township, hasn't been seen since the fall of 2011, police said. More than $116,000 in Social Security benefits for Thomas Hayden was deposited into a joint account for Thomas and Virginia Hayden over the course of several years.

On Jan. 18, 2012, a bloody scalp and hair, along with pieces of cloth, were found in a FoodSaver bag along the side of the 4200 block of Conewago Road in Dover Township.

At the time, police ran a DNA sample in their system but didn't find a match.

The remains were identified in 2017 as belonging to Thomas Hayden, based on DNA samples provided by Hayden's two brothers.

Northern York County Regional Police are the investigating agency.

Virginia Hayden had a preliminary arraignment before District Judge Keith L. Albright at 10:15 a.m. Monday, April 29. Court documents indicate she was remanded to York County Prison.

She is not eligible for bail and does not have a defense attorney listed.

Virginia Hayden is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Friday, May 10, before District Judge David C. Eshbach.

Missing: Police began investigating Thomas Hayden's disappearance in January 2017 after his daughter, Kim Via, requested a welfare check, police said. Via believed her father was living with his wife, Virginia Hayden.

Via had been estranged from her father and hadn't seen him or spoken to him since October 2005, according to court documents.

Via said whenever she tried to call her father, Virginia Hayden told Via her father did not want to speak with her. Via eventually hired a private investigator, who did not locate Hayden.

When police went to the Carlisle address where Via believed her father was living with his wife in 2017, Virginia Hayden's granddaughter informed them that Thomas Hayden had never lived there.

Police began interviewing friends and family of Thomas Hayden and discovered that no one could recall seeing him or hearing from him since the fall of 2011.

Virginia Hayden's daughter, Carolyn Cooksey, told police she hadn't seen Thomas Hayden since the fall of 2011.

Cooksey said her mother told her that she'd traveled to Mexico with Thomas Hayden, where he was being treated for ALS, and in 2011 Cooksey received several phone calls from her mother that gave her the impression the couple was on their way to Mexico.

Cooksey's daughter, Virginia Cooksey, told police in February 2017 that she hadn't seen Thomas Hayden since 2010 or 2011 and that she did not think he was still alive.

Virginia Cooksey also told police in February 2017 that her grandmother had lived with her in Carlisle until recently.

When Virginia Hayden moved out of the shared apartment, Virginia Cooksey told police she found Thomas Hayden's Pennsylvania driver's license, passport and Social Security card in her grandmother's lock box.

Virginia Cooksey took pictures of the documents and forwarded them to her mother, who sent them to police.

Another person, the Haydens' former next-door neighbor in Dover Township, told police that Thomas Hayden just "up and disappeared" one day and that Virginia said he'd died after traveling to Mexico for medical treatment related to an ALS diagnosis.

Lt. John Migatulski and Detective Michael Hine with Northern York County Regional Police interviewed Virginia Hayden in July 2017.

She told them Thomas Hayden had left for Mexico sometime in late 2011 after seeing a commercial on TV, but she gave differing accounts of how he left.

Virginia Hayden said she didn't know where her husband was. When police asked her why she told people Thomas Hayden had died but was telling them she didn't know where he was, she reportedly said it was too embarrassing to tell other people that her husband had left her.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that on Oct. 4, 2011, shortly before her husband disappeared, Virginia Hayden bought a .357-caliber handgun from a York County firearms dealer, according to the affidavit.

She later told police she resold the gun and transferred ownership to someone else, but ATF records indicated the gun was never transferred from Virginia Hayden's name.

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Financial fraud: After Thomas Hayden disappeared, his Social Security benefits continued to be deposited into the joint bank account he shared with his wife, totaling $116,765 over the course of several years.

Police said there was only one debit card issued to the account, which Virginia Hayden possessed, and that most of the transactions in the time since Thomas Hayden disappeared had been made in the central Pennsylvania area.

Police said they asked Virginia Hayden how her husband could live and survive without having access to the bank account. She said she didn't know.

In November 2013, about two years after Thomas Hayden was last seen, he appeared to have sold his share of the couple's Dover Township house to Virginia Hayden for $1.

A handwriting expert later concluded that Thomas Hayden's signature on the Nov. 4, 2013, deed transfer had actually been written by Virginia Hayden and notarized by Connie Pender, Virginia Hayden's daughter, who was a certified notary at the time.

Just one year later, in November 2014, Virginia Hayden sold the house for $135,000.

Manner of death: Police included medical testimony in the affidavit of probable cause, filed Sunday, April 28, from Dr. Wayne K. Ross.

After reviewing police records, Thomas Hayden's medical records and the human remains found in Dover Township, Ross determined the scalp had been removed with a knife-like object.

Ross could not determine if the dismemberment occurred while Thomas Hayden was still alive or after his death, but he said that if Hayden had been alive when it happened, it would have amounted to "torture and horrendous pain."

Ross said the amount of blood found on the remains and the cloth pieces in the FoodSaver bag was consistent with blunt force trauma, sharp force trauma, a gunshot wound or wounds, toxicity or postmortem dismemberment.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the district judge that presided over Virginia Hayden's preliminary arraignment. It was District Judge Keith L. Albright.