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Autopsy: East Vandergrift man died of natural causes

posted Jun 25, 2014, 5:30 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jun 25, 2014, 5:31 PM ]


Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 2:27 p.m.

A 59-year-old East Vandergrift man whose body was found in a barrel in the basement of his home died from natural causes.

Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha said the specific cause of death for David F. Thomas has not been determined, however, there is no evidence of homicide.

“There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play,” Bacha said.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht performed the autopsy Wednesday afternoon.

Thomas' son. David Jordan Thomas, 31, remains in the Westmoreland County Jail in lieu of $55,000 bond on charges he put his father in the barrel and took about $3,400 from his bank account to pay bills and buy drugs.

According to an affidavit, police smelled a strong odor in the house at 301 Kennedy Ave. when they checked on the father's welfare and suspected a body was there.

When the younger Thomas took officers to the basement of the small frame house, police asked what was inside the blue 55-gallon barrel with sealed lid .

David J. Thomas told police it was some personal belongings from his grandmother. But the smell increased when he opened the container.

Police allege that's when the younger Thomas opened the clamp on the barrel to show them some of the items from inside.

In the process, the barrel tipped over and part of David F. Thomas's body slid onto the basement floor.

Vandergrift police Chief Joe Caporali said he saw the man's head and part of a shoulder and they instantly knew they were looking at a dead man.

During interviews with county detectives and Vandergrift police, David Jordan Thomas said his father, a disabled veteran, had been ill for years and that one morning he awoke to find his father dead and cold to the touch.

David J. Thomas said he carried his father to the basement and placed him inside some blankets. Later, he allegedly used his father's S&T bank card to buy the barrel that was delivered to the house.

Neighbors told police they saw the barrel delivered and a receipt for it was found in the home's kitchen.

Thomas' preliminary hearing is scheduled July 8

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