- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

EXPORT, Pa. (AP) - A heroin addict was ordered to stand trial on charges she killed her mother by hitting the woman with a hammer then strangling her after the victim refused to let the suspect borrow her car to go buy drugs.

Sarah Vercauteren, 25, of Salem Township, is charged with a single count of criminal homicide.

At her preliminary hearing Wednesday, Westmoreland County prosecutors played a 50-minute statement Vercauteren gave state police in which she detailed the bloody New Year’s Eve attack on 51-year-old Dawn Marie Wagner in the mobile home they shared, most of which took place while Vercauteren’s 2-year-old son napped.

Vercauteren was charged Jan. 10, a day after Wagner’s estranged husband found her body. By then, Vercauteren was already jailed in neighboring Allegheny County on charges she robbed a PNC Bank in McKeesport on Jan. 7 to support her heroin habit.

Vercauteren told police she hit her mother in the head with the hammer after Wagner refused to let her borrow the car. Vercauteren dragged the woman into the bathroom because of the large amount of blood that resulted, only to hear her mother say, “Sarah, you can use my car. I’m sorry, you can use my car.”

Vercauteren told police she was “dope sick” and attacked her mother because, “I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t want to kill my mom. I didn’t plan it.”

But Vercauteren also told police she strangled the woman because she heard her mother gurgling and wanted to end her suffering saying, “I tried to choke her and I couldn’t because it was so slippery” from the blood.

Instead, Vercauteren found some duct tape and bound her mother’s legs so the woman couldn’t escape.

“I thought that she was going to get up and go outside and tell somebody,” Vercauteren said, adding, “and I didn’t want to get into trouble.”

Vercauteren said her son woke up while she was cleaning up the blood and asked, “Where’s Mom Mom?” the boy’s pet name for Wagner. “Mom Mom’s fine, baby,” Vercauteren said she answered.

Vercauteren stayed in the mobile home for a few days, but didn’t use the bathroom where her mother’s corpse remained, using a bucket as a toilet instead, she told police.

When Vercauteren finally left, she took her mother’s checkbook, bank cards, phone and car and withdrew $600 to buy heroin, which she used over several days in a nearby motel. She kept her son busy by letting him watch cartoons.

Vercauteren’s son is now living with his paternal grandmother.

Vercauteren’s defense attorney didn’t immediately return a call for comment Thursday.



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