On January 9, 2014, Larry Wagner received a phone call from his estranged wife’s employer to say she hadn’t turned up to work. When he went round to check on Dawn Marie Wagner in her mobile home in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, he found her beaten and choked to death.
Dawn Wagner had been dead for nine days, having been attacked on New Years’ Eve. Neighbors said they’d heard Dawn’s dog howling for days.
It later transpired that the police already had the killer in custody on an unrelated charge of robbery. It was Dawn’s daughter, Sarah Vercauteren, and she’d been on a drug-fueled crime spree since beating her mother to death.
Vercauteren was cooperative with the state police and readily confessed to murder. She told investigators that she beat her mother to death because she wouldn’t let her borrow her 2011 Chevrolet Aveo to buy drugs.
Sarah Vercauteren attacked mom with a hammer
With her young son in the mobile home, Vercauteren says she grabbed a hammer and started striking her mother repeatedly. She then dragged her mother to the bathroom, where Wagner told her daughter, “Sarah, I’m sorry. You can use my car. You can use my car.”
Vercautern says she apologized to her mother but then decided to end her “suffering” by choking her to death. She said: “I tried to choke her because she was gurgling, and I didn’t want her to be suffering. I tried to choke her, but I couldn’t. It was so slippery. There was so much blood.”
The killer then duct tapped her mother’s hands and feet and attempted to clean up the crime scene. She then stole Wagner’s wallet and packed a few day’s worths of clothing for herself and her son.
After purchasing a brick of heroin, Vercautern spent several days in a nearby motel shooting up the drug with her son in the room with her.
The pair then spent a few days in Wagner’s mobile home, where Vercautern avoided using the bathroom so she wouldn’t have to confront her mother’s corpse. On January 7, she drove to Allegheny County, where she embarked on a robbing crime spree and was eventually picked up by cops.
On January 10, Vercauteern confessed to murdering her mother. She subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. “I deserve it,” she responded on hearing the sentence.
Her young son was placed in the custody of his paternal grandparents.
More from Snapped
Follow the links to read about more horrendous crimes profiled on Snapped.
Dominic Whitaker and Kayla Nelson from Arkansas had been high school sweethearts who had seemed inseparable. However, years later, Kayla shot the father of her children dead and set fire to his remains on a neighbor’s land.
Carmine Bruno was beaten to death with a baseball at his home in North Carolina. The killer wielding the bat was his lodger Dennis Roy, who had sprung into action when Carmine’s wife Mary Bruno had given him the nod.
Snapped airs at 6/5c on Oxygn.