Man kills ex-wife, himself in South Strabane standoff

September 27, 2013
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
A state police forensics investigator gathers evidence Friday at the scene of a murder-suicide on Arrowhead Drive in South Strabane Township. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Police are gathered in the driveway and a fire crew vents tear gas from a second-story window Friday as Washington County Deputy Coroner Tim Kegal exits a townhome on Arrowhead Drive in South Strabane Township where a man killed his former wife and then himself. Order a Print
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Kathie Warco / Observer-Reporter
Shots fired from across the street during a murder-suicide on Arrowhead Drive in South Strabane Township shattered the glass in Lou Haddad’s front door. Order a Print

A Buffalo Township man shot and killed his ex-wife at her South Strabane Township home late Thursday and shot her boyfriend in the face before turning the gun on himself after holding police at bay.

Authorities said Harold E. “Junior” McCutcheon, 56, of 4432 Route 40, Claysville, killed 52-year-old Terry L. McCutcheon at her home at 1146 Arrowhead Drive with a gunshot to the chest. Her death was ruled a homicide. Harold McCutcheon died of a gunshot wound to the head, and his death was ruled a suicide.

Township police Detective Ken Torboli Jr. said she was found in her bedroom while he was found in another bedroom. Torboli said it appears they were shot with a .357-caliber revolver.

Richard Carly of South Strabane Township, identified as Terry McCutcheon’s boyfriend, was able to crawl to the home of a neighbor, who called 911. Carly was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, where he underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to his face. His condition was not immediately available, but Torboli said he is expected to survive.

The shootings come just more than a week after Terry McCutcheon filed a private criminal complaint against her former husband at the office of District Judge Jay Weller. The complaint, filed Sept. 18, was approved by an assistant district attorney two days later as a summary harassment charge.

In the complaint, she accused her former husband of harassment between Oct. 23, 2012, and Sept. 14. Terry McCutcheon alleged that she and a friend were playing slot machines at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino Sept. 14 when she was approached by her ex-husband, who wanted to talk with her. She told him to contact her attorney, and she and the friend moved to other machines. He followed and reportedly became verbally abusive, allegedly threatening to “tear her friend’s head off,” the complaint said. The complaint identifies Carly as a witness, but the accompanying affidavit does not identify him by name as the friend who was with her at the casino.

Township police were called to Terry McCutcheon’s home at 11:49 p.m. Thursday for a report of a person shot. Harold McCutcheon apparently parked a car off the adjacent Fischer Road and walked to his ex-wfie’s home.

“As police approached the house, he fired a shot out of the front of the house that struck the door of the house across the street,” Torboli said.

Police contacted the Washington Area SWAT team for assistance after arriving at the house and hearing additional gunshots.

Lou Haddad, who lives across the street, said the glass on his front door shattered when the shot was fired, and a bullet was found in the dry cleaning he had hanging in a closet. Another bullet was found in a garage at the Stone Creek Apartments, located on the other side of Fischer Road.

Torboli said it appears that bullet was fired from the rear of the home.

“About 2:30 a.m., I could hear someone over a speaker yelling for Harold McCutcheon to come out with his hands up,” Haddad said Friday morning as he waited to return to his home in the Strabane Manor plan and his frightened pug, Mimi. “The SWAT truck came out, and they started firing tear gas into the house.”

Twenty minutes later, Haddad got a telephone call from authorities who told him he had to evacuate.

“They drove around the back and picked us up,” Haddad said, adding that about a dozen residents were evacuated to a parking lot at Fischer, Davis School and Washington roads.

“SWAT did a great job getting the neighbors out safely,” Torboli said. “We are very fortunate no one else was injured.”

Haddad said Terry McCutcheon moved about two years ago to the Strabane Manor condominiums, but he did not know her other than to say hello. He said he was walking his dog earlier this week and waved at her as she pulled into her driveway.

Records at Washington County Courthouse show a history of strife between the former Terry Pasqualla and Harold McCutcheon after they married Aug. 11, 1978, in Canonsburg.

He filed for divorce as a pauper July 10, 1980, while residing at Claysville R.D.1, but discontinued the action a year later. No record exists of the filing. The docket was stamped “all papers destroyed” March 24, 1995.

She filed for divorce Nov. 10, 1988, claiming the marriage was irretrievably broken. Nearly two years later, Terry McCutcheon’s attorney noted she wanted exclusive possession of the marital residence at 128 Main St., Claysville, which Judge David L. Gilmore granted, ordering that Harold McCutcheon was to leave the premises no later than noon Aug. 31, 1990. The judge authorized state police and Claysville police to uphold the court order if the estranged husband did not comply.

Events that might have been routine for other couples required court intervention. Terry McCutcheon, who identified herself in documents as a nurse at Washington Hospital, informed the court she needed a reliable car to get back and forth to work, and needed her estranged husband’s signature on a 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier’s title so she could afford to purchase another vehicle. She said Harold McCutcheon, a truck driver, provided no support for her or her child, nor had he made car payments, but he refused to sign over the car.

On Oct. 25, 1970, Judge Thomas Terputac ordered Harold McCutcheon to go to then-Royal Chevrolet, Jefferson Avenue, Canton Township, to sign over the title so his estranged wife could trade the Cavalier.

The McCutcheons’ divorce languished, but Terry McCutcheon’s attorney asked in February 1993 that it be removed from the stale case list. Judge Katherine B. Emery signed a final divorce decree Feb. 12, 1996. A sealed envelope addressed to Harold McCutcheon, perhaps containing a copy of the divorce decree, remains in the court file marked “return to sender,” because his address was not known. At the time the state Department of Vital Records documented the divorce, Harold McCutcheon’s place of employment was listed as Waste Management, Rangos Lane, Washington.

Violence between the McCutcheons broke out April 29, 2000, when Terry McCutcheon accused her ex-husband of striking her in the face with his fist at what was described as “their residence,” 4432 Route 40, Claysville. Harold McCutcheon was placed under arrest and ordered to leave the premises. He pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault and was placed on probation for a year and ordered to attend anger management classes. He also was ordered to stay away from the Route 40 residence.

Terry McCutcheon was given a protection-from-abuse order May 16, 2000. Harold McCutcheon was accused of violating that order in June of that year and was placed on probation. Because the dispute involved child custody and visitation, arrangements were made for custody exchanges to be done at the home of a neutral party.

Staff writer Barbara S. Miller contributed to this story.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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