Unsolved homicides

Roberto M. Esquivel | Herald-Standard

Newspaper clippings spanning decades document the unsolved killing of Earl “Jay” Wolfe. The 17-year-old was gunned down on Feb. 3, 1973 in North Union Township.

The following is part of a weekly series on unsolved homicides and suspected homicide cases in Fayette County and the surrounding area.

The stacks of files are voluminous.

In the Herald-Standard library, large filing drawers are filled with manilla envelopes documenting everything from school board meetings in Uniontown in 1967 to stories about Fallingwater throughout the decades.

Several drawers in the archives room are devoted to homicide cases and trials.

In those drawers, one name appears more often at the tops of the worn and wrinkled folders than any other -- Earl “Jay” Wolfe. More than 100 newspaper clippings, many yellowed with age, are folded and tucked into those files.

Likewise, at the state police station in Uniontown, cold case investigator Trooper John F. Marshall can pull binder after binder of newspaper articles and interview notes, scene descriptions and suspect lists, all regarding Wolfe's shooting death.

Wolfe, 17, was gunned down on Feb. 3, 1973, in North Union Township, according to Marshall.

The Hopwood teen was found with three bullet wounds to the head inside his car along Bennington Road. And while investigators quickly linked his death to the subsequent beating death of a 65-year-old jeweler Stanley Warzinski, whose home and business neighbored Wolfe's father's business in South Union Township, the slayings have never been solved.

But that has not kept Wolfe's killing from capturing headlines for the last four decades, and has not stopped his death and the subsequent search for his killer from working itself into the fabric of the local community.

A case unlike the others

Marshall said he has read the files and then reread them before reading them again, trying to find that one opening or detail that hasn't been explored that could solve the case.

“In this case, we have used every means available to us,” Marshall said. “Search warrants, wire taps, psychics.”

A little more than a year after Wolfe's slaying, David Hoy, a psychic from Paducah, Ky., visited Fayette County and spoke with Wolfe's parents and visited the crime scene.

Hoy told police that the case would be solved “shortly” and that more than one person was involved in Wolfe's death.

The highly publicized visit was closely monitored by police, but no substantive leads were developed from Hoy's alleged findings.

But psychics and federal wire taps aside, something set Wolfe's slaying apart from the other unsolved homicides in Fayette County.

By all accounts, Wolfe was an outgoing boy, active in school and church, and worked at his father's business. It was that reputation, some have speculated, that made Wolfe's killing a little more personal for area residents.

“He was church-going, a great kid,” Marshall said. “He had no record and no bad influences whatsoever.”

Even articles written about the slaying in the months and years following Wolfe's death appeared to elevate the killing from standard news copy to a more intimate style of writing.

Often referred to as “young Wolfe” or “the Wolfe boy” or even as “Jay” and “young Jay” in some of the articles, the region became fascinated with Wolfe's death and many became dedicated to finding his killer.

A reward fund was established and, within a few years, more than $18,000 had been collected in an effort to try and cajole a witness into coming forward.

Now, 40 years and hundreds of dead end leads later, the money is still being held by the family in the hopes that someone, somewhere, might still come forward at the 11th hour and explain how Wolfe was killed.

Holding out hope

As years turned to decades, Wolfe's family, especially his mother and father, continued to honor their son's memory every Feb. 3, by petitioning local newspapers with letters regarding the reward fund and the family's continued desire to see the case resolved.

Those pleas, coupled with Wolfe's sparkling reputation and the heinous nature of the crime, has kept the case somewhere on the region's collective radar for years and, even today, when discussing cold cases and unsolved homicides, Wolfe's slaying is most often recalled.

Wolfe's mother, the late Donna Haught Wolfe, was able to describe her sense of loss in one of dozens of articles she penned in the months following her son's slaying. That article began with a single sentence that was reprinted in newspapers across the district.

“It's really unbelievable, how you can go through life leading a perfectly normal life, trying to do what is right and trying to lead a Christian life, and then in just a short time, your life is turned into a nightmare.”

On the 27th anniversary of his death, Donna Wolfe, made yet another plea and again cut to the bone in a guest commentary featured in the Herald-Standard on Feb. 5, 2000.

“I resent it that someone can come into your life, kill your son and cause all kinds of emotional problems to the whole family and just go on living their lives like nothing ever happened,” she wrote.

Anyone with information regarding Wolfe's death is asked to call police at 724-439-7111.

Additionally, Marshall said Fayette County Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Tips can be made by calling 1-888-404-TIPS.

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