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Woman accused of murdering her husband, concealing his disappearance is charged with illegally collecting his Social Security benefits

York County Prison via WPMT

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    Carlisle, Pennsylvania (WPMT) — A Cumberland County woman accused of murdering her husband is facing new federal charges claiming she defrauded the Social Security system for years after his death.

Virginia Hayden, 69, of Carlisle, was indicted by a federal grand jury in U.S. Middle District Court this week on charges of fraud and conversion of government chargers. She is accused of concealing her husband’s 2011 death and collecting $113,471 in his Social Security benefits until 2017.

Hayden was charged with homicide in the death of Thomas Hayden Sr. in April 2019 by Northern York County Regional Police.

Thomas Hayden disappeared in 2011, but his wife never reported him missing — even though she was required by law to do so.

Instead, the grand jury concluded, Virginia Hayden continued collecting her husband’s Social Security benefits in a checking account the couple shared.

Those benefits were supposed to end when Thomas Hayden died.

Virginia Hayden was charged with homicide in 2019 — more than seven years after some of Thomas Hayden’s remains were found in a plastic Food Saver shopping bag near the Conwago Creek in Dover, York County. Investigators did not know the remains were Thomas Hayden’s at the time, because there was no DNA match.

On January 21, 2017, Kim Via, Thomas Hayden’s biological daughter, called state police in Carlisle to ask them to check on her father.

Via had been estranged from her father since 2005 and is currently a resident of Louisiana, but had been attempting to call him only to be turned away be her stepmother, Virginia Hayden.

Virginia Hayden would tell Via that her father didn’t want to speak to her.

When police went to the first block Eastgate Drive in Carlisle to do a welfare check and stop by Virginia’s apartment, they found that Thomas Hayden had apparently been missing since 2011.

According to court documents, on January 22, Virginia told police that Thomas had left Pennsylvania one night in 2011 to seek medical treatment for ALS. However, Virginia provided two different accounts of his departure: one account was that he left with his brother, Spencer Hayden at night, and another that Thomas left on his own with an overnight bag.

During the interview, Virginia allegedly confirmed to authorities that she was still receiving Thomas Hayden’s social security benefits, as they were being deposited into the couple’s joint account.

Later that same day, police went to the 3000 block of Barley Circle, which was the Hayden’s former residence. While attempting to find Thomas, police spoke with the home’s new owner, Robert Denoncourt.

Denoncourt told police that he had bought the home from Virginia in November 2014 and during the process of completing the purchase, Virginia told Denoncourt that her husband was deceased.

Police reviewed the deed of the property and found that in November 2013, Thomas had sold his share of the Barley Circle home to Virginia Hayden for one dollar.

The deed transfer showed that Pender, the daughter of Virginia Hayden, was the notary for Thomas’s signature.

Police brought the deed transfer to a handwriting expert that determined that Thomas’s signature was actually written by Virginia.

While reviewing additional records about the sale of the home, police found that Virginia sold Denoncourt the home for $135,000, but in order for her to complete the sale of the home, Pender signed and notarized a Specialty Warranty Deed removing Thomas’s name.

On January 27, police interviewed Spencer and Owen Hayden, Thomas’s brothers.

Both told police that neither had seen or spoken to Thomas since October 2010, and denied ever taking their brother to get medical treatment.

The Hayden brothers voluntarily submitted DNA samples that were then compared to the DNA found in the Foodsaver bag five years earlier.

Results of the tests indicated that the blood, skin, and hair found in the bag likely belonged to a sibling of the Hayden brothers.

As the police’s investigation continued, they found that Virginia had previously spoken about disposing of bodies, specifically referencing “feeding a body to pigs.”

Carolyn Cooksey, Virginia’s daughter, told police that Virginia described how pigs “would eat everything but the skull.”

Michael Harris, Virginia’s grandson, said he too had conversations with his grandmother about getting rid of bodies.

In a July 2017 interview with police, Harris recounted that Virginia told him that if you fed a body to pigs, they would eat everything but the hair, the criminal complaint states. He also told police that he was close to his grandparents, but hadn’t seen his grandfather in several years. He also recounted that after Thomas Hayden left, Virginia Hayden gave him a credit card to use. The credit card had Thomas Hayden’s name on it, Harris said.

In February 2017, police interviewed a former Barley Circle neighbor, who told police that her husband knew Thomas Hayden well, and that they would sit on the front porch and talk.

When police asked the neighbor if she had seen Thomas recently, she said that Virginia told her that Thomas had moved to Mexico for ALS treatment and had died there.

The neighbor noted that it was odd that Thomas just disappeared one day, and that her son-in-law would joke that he was buried in the backyard because Virginia had a concrete slab that doubled the size of the patio, poured behind her house.

As police continued to review records, they found that the last time Thomas had been seen by a doctor was September 27, 2011, and that he had an appointment scheduled for October 25. That appointment was canceled by Virginia, who said that her husband was no longer in the area.

Police obtained records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that showed that Virginia had bought a .357 caliber handgun from a store in York on October 2, 2011. When police asked her where the gun was, she told police that she had sold the gun through a dealer, but there are no ATF records of a sale.

Police executed a search warrant on Virginia’s home and found a lock box that contained Thomas’s driver’s license, Social Security and Medicare cards along with his passport.

They also found a day planner from 2011, with a note on Nov. 1 that said “Tom left for Mexico.”

While searching the home, police found a Foodsaver system, similar to the bag that the blood, hair and skin had been found in in 2012.

Police again interviewed Virginia on July 11, 2017. She gave conflicting accounts of Thomas’s disappearance, police say.

She told police that Thomas had left sometime in 2011 and took $40,000 in cash, and that she had spoken to him recently but couldn’t provide a phone number or recall when they had spoken.

When police asked if Virginia knew her husband’s whereabouts, she told police “maybe you ought to check the grave of my second husband for him.”

Police say they consulted a handwriting expert in August 2017, who determined that several legal documents, checks, and other forms with Thomas Hayden’s signature on them had actually been signed by Virginia Hayden. The expert also determined a letter beginning with “Dearest Carolyn, don’t be upset” and ending with “Love you and the kids, Pop” was actually written by Virginia Hayden, according to the complaint.

In an interview with police in December 2017, Pender allegedly told police she had signed and sworn to become a certified notary at the behest of Virginia Hayden, who had actually taken the online certification course. Pender told police she wasn’t sure why Virginia Hayden didn’t want to become the notary herself, since she was the one who had done all the course work.

Pender allegedly admitted to police that she had notarized documents like the house deed, title to a trailer, and other paperwork brought to her by Virginia Hayden. Thomas Hayden was never present for any of the title transfer work, even though his signature was on the paperwork, Pender allegedly told police. Virginia Hayden would always bring her the documents pre-signed by Thomas Hayden, Pender said, and always had an excuse for why Thomas Hayden was not present, she told police.

Pender told police she hadn’t seen or heard from Thomas Hayden in several years, according to the complaint. She, like others, said she had been informed by Virginia Hayden that Thomas Hayden had gone to Mexico for ALS treatment.

Pender said she did not believe Thomas Hayden was alive, according to the complaint.

Police charged Virginia Hayden with homicide after experts and FBI analysts examined the bloodstained items found in the FoodSaver bag and a medical expert analyzed Thomas Hayden’s medical records, police reports, the items found in the FoodSaver bag, and photographs of Hayden.

The experts determined Hayden died from “a violent death at the hands of another individual,” citing the “scalp dismemberment, and degree of blood loss,” the complaint states.

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