Authorities in two states believe two brothers in Texas may have a connection to the alleged murder of their grandfather by their own grandmother several years ago.
Search warrants issued by the Austin, Texas Police Department are seeking DNA samples from Steven Harris and Michael Harris – an extension of efforts lodged by law enforcement in York County, Pennsylvania since October 2021. Police in the Keystone State say they haven’t been able to make contact with the brothers.
The case dates back more than a decade.
In 2011, 62-year-old Thomas Hayden disappeared – almost without a trace. His wife, Virginia Hayden, 70, never reported him as a missing person. Instead, according to federal prosecutors, she continued to unlawfully collect his Social Security benefits – to the tune of some $113,000 over roughly six years. She was charged with her third husband’s murder in April 2019 by Northern York Regional Police in Pennsylvania.
In addition to being charged with her husband’s murder, Virginia Hayden faces 64 additional state counts that include forgery, conspiracy, theft, receiving stolen property, and tampering with public records.
A federal indictment on fraud and conversion charges was returned against her in February 2021, PennLive reported.
Though his actual body was never found, Thomas Hayden is more than presumed dead. In January 2012, a FoodSaver vacuum-sealed bag was found on the side of a road near Conewago Creek in Dover Township, Pa. The bag’s contents were grim: a human scalp with hair in a ponytail tie and a piece of a bloody queen-size bedsheet.
That gruesome discovery reportedly mystified police for years. The DNA was tested but no results came back. There was no indication who the scalp belonged to. A break in the case would take just over five years.
In late January 2017, Kim Via, Thomas Hayden’s estranged daughter, called police and said she hadn’t spoken with her father in 11 years. But, she told police, that not for a lack of trying. Via, who lives in Louisiana, said she tried to reach out but every time the phone was answered by Virginia Hayden, who allegedly told her that her father didn’t want to talk.
Virginia Hayden was eventually interviewed by police. She said her husband left in 2011 to seek medical treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease in Mexico. But, police allege, she gave varying details about his departure and never could account for the wrinkles in her story. A FoodSaver vacuum sealer was found in her residence. Police also found Thomas Hayden’s passport, driver’s license, and Social Security card in a locked box, according to the York Daily Record.
Additional DNA testing determined the scalp belonged to a sibling of Thomas Hayden’s two brothers.
Virginia Hayden had also allegedly said that she knew her husband was dead. That statement was allegedly made in November 2014 when she sold the condo she and Thomas Hayden formerly shared to another man who told police about their conversation. But that sale was only possible, police say, after Virginia Hayden forged her husband’s signature on a deed in order to sell her his interest in the property for one dollar in November 2013. That alleged forgery was facilitated by the notary services of the alleged murderess’ daughter, Connie Pender, who currently lives in Austin, Texas.
Pender was charged with forgery, theft by deception, tampering with public documents, and conspiracy. She took a plea deal with the York County District Attorney’s Office for two years’ probation.
Now there’s another Austin connection to the case.
According to a search warrant obtained by local NBC affiliate KXAN, Virginia Hayden was “very close” with her grandson Michael Harris and had once give him a credit card in Thomas Hayden’s name. He allegedly told investigators that he was in high school at the time and it was just “free money” to him.
The warrant also says the allegedly close pair had “conversations about . . . the disposal of bodies.”
“Virginia informed Michael if you feed a person to pigs, they eat everything but the hair,” the court document reportedly reads.
Law&Crime reached out to the Travis County Clerk for a copy of the warrant. That request was denied because the document is allegedly “inactive.” Follow-up requests to the Austin Police Department went unanswered.
[image via York County Prison]
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