pa woman sentenced for husbands presumed 2011 death after partial scalp discovered along road

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A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to six to 20 years in prison on charges in the disappearance and apparent death of her husband more than a decade ago — charges based in part on a partial scalp found in a bag along a road.

Hours before jury selection was to begin in her York County trial last week, 71-year-old Virginia Hayden pleaded no contest to third-degree murder and tampering with public records. A no-contest plea spares a defendant from having to acknowledge guilt but is treated as a guilty plea by the court.

Hayden was charged in 2019 with first-degree murder and 65 other criminal counts, including forgery, theft, and receiving stolen property in the disappearance and presumed death of Thomas Hayden Sr., who went missing in the fall of 2011.


Prosecutors say a large section of scalp with hair that appeared to be tied in a ponytail was found along with bloody pieces of cloth in a FoodSaver bag along a road in January 2012. DNA tests didn’t turn up a match then, but the remains were later identified as belonging to Thomas Hayden based on samples provided by his two brothers.

Forensic scientists were unable to conclude whether Hayden’s husband was dead or alive at the time he was scalped, but concluded that if he was alive during the process it would’ve caused his death.

A forensic analysis could not conclude whether Thomas Hayden was dead or alive when his scalp was cut off, but said if he was alive, the act would have resulted in his death. A forensic pathologist testified in 2019 that he likely died of a gunshot wound, based on the state of microscopic bone particles found in the blood with the scalp.

Authorities said Virginia Hayden told police multiple times that Thomas decided to travel to Mexico and never came back, according to charging documents. His body has never been found.


Defense attorneys declined comment Tuesday. Hayden was given credit for 1,227 days she has already served in jail since her arrest in 2019. She still faces a federal trial slated for February on charges of wire fraud and conversion of government funds in connection with more than $100,000 gained from Social Security from 2011 to 2017.

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