A McKeesport man has been charged with homicide in connection with a brutal double-stabbing Thursday morning in downtown Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh police said there is still no clear reason why the suspect, identified as James Wyatt, 23, slashed Janice Purdue-Dance, 61, of Erie.
The victim was talking to a police officer at a bus stop in front of the Heinz 57 Center on Sixth Avenue when the attack occurred.
Police allege that Wyatt stabbed another woman before the officer subdued him and took him into custody. The second victim survived the attack and was in stable condition at a hospital Thursday night.
Early reports indicated that the second victim, whose name was not released, was wearing a hijab, a head scarf traditionally worn by observant Muslim women.
But Purdue-Dance was not wearing any obvious religious symbols and the stabbing does not appear to have been for ethnic or religious reasons, said Pittsburgh police Commander Victor Joseph of the bureau's Major Crimes Unit.
“At this time we do not have any evidence to suggest this was a hate crime,” Joseph said in a prepared statement. “We will conduct a complete and thorough investigation of this tragic incident to include motive.”
Court records indicate that a man matching Wyatt’s age and description has been involved in mostly non-violent incidents in the past. In February, he was issued a disorderly conduct citation by McKeesport police for making unreasonable noise, and in 2015 he was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident.
According to Pittsburgh police spokesman Chris Togneri, a Zone 2 police officer on routine patrol at around 11:40 a.m. Thursday in the downtown area stopped in the 300 block of Sixth Avenue to check on a woman who appeared to be sleeping or passed out.
As the officer, whose name was not released, spoke to the woman, a man approached and attacked her with a knife, Togneri said. The man --- identified by police as Wyatt --- then assaulted another woman who was walking past the bus stop before he was subdued and taken into custody, Togneri said.
Pittsburgh police rendered first aid to both victims until Pittsburgh paramedics arrived. Purdue-Dance was taken by ambulance to UPMC Mercy Hospital, Uptown, where she died just after 12 noon as a result of her wounds, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.
Wyatt was taken to Pittsburgh police headquarters for questioning.
He is currently being held in the Allegheny County Jail without bond on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault and carrying a prohibited offensive weapon, pending a preliminary hearing Aug. 21 before Common Pleas Court Judge Kim Berkeley Clark.
Allegheny County records indicate that before Thursday's incident, Wyatt had relatively few serious run-ins with local police.
In the most significant incident, a man with Wyatt's name and age was arrested by McKeesport police in September 2015 and charged with leaving the scene of an accident, possession of a controlled substance and carrying a firearm without a license in connection with a July 2015 incident.
Court records indicate that the suspect in that case pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani to three years' probation and 100 hours of community service, part of which apparently was served in the Charlotte, N.C., area.
Tube City Almanac could not positively confirm that the defendant in that case was the same man charged in Thursday's stabbing.
Originally published August 08, 2019.