Dover Township woman will face trial in death of husband

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Virginia Hayden

A Dover Township man whose bloody scalp was discovered in January 2012 in a bag on the side of a road most likely died of a gunshot wound, according to the forensic pathologist who examined the remains.

Advanced forensic tests of the blood in the bag, identified as belonging to Thomas Hayden Sr., revealed microscopic bone particles that could have only been caused by a gunshot, said Dr. Wayne K. Ross.

"I could see lines and lines and lines of bone," he said.

Ross was one of six witnesses who testified at 67-year-old Virginia L. Hayden's preliminary hearing Wednesday, July 10, before District Judge David C. Eshbach.

Hayden is charged with criminal homicide and several counts of forgery, conspiracy, theft by deception, tampering with public records and receiving stolen property.

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Eshbach determined there was enough evidence for Hayden to stand trial in York County Court. Her formal arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 16.

She is not eligible for bail.

At the close of the hearing, defense attorney Brian P. Platt asked Eshbach to dismiss the homicide charge because the evidence against his client is entirely circumstantial and, he said, the prosecution had failed to prove Virginia Hayden killed her husband.

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Tim Barker, chief deputy prosecutor for the York County District Attorney's Office, said that although the evidence was circumstantial, the prosecution had established Virginia Hayden's opportunity and motive, as well as a pattern of deception and the fact that she had reaped financial benefits in the wake of her husband's death.

Barker said Virginia Hayden bought a firearm only a few weeks before Thomas Hayden was last seen.

He also pointed out that after Thomas Hayden's death, Virginia Hayden continued collecting his Social Security benefits and sold off assets that formerly belonged to him, including a motorcycle trailer and the house they previously owned together.

The remains: Officer Stephen McClure, of the Northern York County Regional Police, testified that on Jan. 18, 2012, a Dover Township man named Anthony Suglia reported a suspicious-looking bag he'd found on the side of the road.

McClure took the bag into police possession, and at the station he opened the bag and found the contents included what appeared to be human hair and a hair tie, and several pieces of what appeared to be skin attached to the hair.

There were several pieces of cloth that McClure said resembled a queen-sized bed sheet, and all of the items were wet and covered in red stains, he said.

The prosecution later pointed out that when Virginia Hayden sold the house she formerly shared with Thomas Hayden, the sale included a queen-sized bed frame. But the mattress and box spring were missing at the time of the sale.

The gunshot: Because Thomas Hayden's body is still missing, Ross needed advanced forensic tests to determine that Thomas Hayden suffered a gunshot wound, but he said the "tremendous amount of blood" found with the remains indicated that Hayden suffered a traumatic injury.

Microscopic imaging showed "atomized" bone particles that retained their shape, which Ross said can only be caused by a high-velocity force consistent with a gunshot.

The bullet essentially vaporizes portions of the bone it contacts when it travels through the body, Ross said, although those particles remain in the blood.

During cross examination, Platt questioned how Ross could be sure it was a bullet that created the bone particles.

Ross, an expert witness, said he considered every possibility, including a knife, a bone saw and a hack saw, but that a gunshot is the only instrument that could create those microscopic particles.

Ross also testified that he believes at least some of the blood found on the sheets and scalp came from Thomas Hayden prior to death, because of the presence of a large number of white blood cells in the samples, which indicate that Hayden suffered a traumatic injury and his body responded.

"Once you're dead, those white blood cells stop responding," Ross said.

The prosecution also presented evidence that Virginia Hayden forged her husband's signature on a number of documents after his death, continued to collect his Social Security benefits for several years and gave conflicting accounts of Thomas Hayden's whereabouts after 2011.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify police officer Stephen McClure's statement about the condition of items found with Thomas Hayden's remains.