ZIDER’S STORE IN LAUGHLINTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
ALL THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD MURDER STORY…
On December 28, 1975, 29-year-old John Mudd was murdered in the basement of his Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, home. His wife Arlene Mudd and their five-year-old son, John Mudd, Jr., were in the living room.
Suspect Steven G. Slutzker lived across the street from John Mudd. He escaped a homicide charge even though he attempted to hire a man to kill John Mudd a week before the crime was committed. He was also having an affair with John Mudd’s wife, Arlene Mudd. A judge decided there simply wasn’t sufficient evidence to go to trial.
In November 1990 John Mudd Jr. recovered repressed memories. He recalled seeing his father’s body in the basement and then seeing Slutzker running away from the Mudd home. Based on this testimony Slutzker was arrested. Upon being convicted of John Mudd’s murder in January 1992 he was sentenced to life in prison.
The Wilkinsburg story contains all the elements of a good murder story.
WHAT IS THIS MURDER STORY’S
CONNECTION WITH LAUGHLINTOWN?
In 1989 Steven Slutzker fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening Scituate Harbor, a 18th century furniture dealership based in Scituate, Massachusetts. Both his name and the name of his wife, Joyce Slutzker, are listed on a flyer for the Pittsburgh store.
The Slutzkers rented “old Ziders store” and sold 18th century furniture, according to Laughlintown resident Terry Coyne.
The property was conveyed to Joyce Schwogel by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy on July 9, 1992. No address for Schwogel is given on the deed, issued a half year after Slutzger was convicted of murder.
Steven Slutzger acquired the store on October 27, 2004, pursuant to a decree of divorce, Joyce H. Schwogel, a/k/a Joyce Helene Slutzker, conveyed the property to Steven Slutzker a/k/a Shimon Gerson for a consideration of $1.00, according to the deed.
The “old Ziders Store” on Rt. 30 at the blinking light in Laughlintown, had been on and off the real estate market for an extended period of time.
UPDATE: The Progress Fund of Greensburg (PA) purchased the structure on June 25. It expects to rehabilitate the building and lease it to a small business, which will enhance the existing businesses—including the Pie Shoppe, Ligonier Country Inn, the Compass Inn, and the antique shops.
THE MURDER STORY CONTINUED
During the late summer of 1975, when Arlene Mudd was involved with Slutzker, she left her husband and then returned to him more than once. The couple was headed to divorce court.
Slutzker claimed that before Christmas 1975 Arlene Mudd asked him to find someone to kill John Mudd because he owed money to drug dealers and was abusive. John Mudd had broken her jaw when he learned about Slutzker’s affair with his wife.
Slutzker’s attempt to hire someone, nine days before the murder, failed. Three days before the murder Slutzker ended his relationship with Arlene Mudd.
Around 11:00 p. m. on December 28, 1955, the Mudds were watching television while their son slept on a couch.
The power failed. John Mudd went into the basement to check the fuse box. While he was gone Arlene Mudd heard several gunshot blasts. She found her husband mortally wounded on the basement floor.
The basement door was nailed shut from the inside, barring entry and exit.
The only witness, a neighbor, said she heard pistol shots. When she looked out a window she saw Arlene Mudd and a man in front of the house. She said the man wasn’t Slutzker.
Slutzker had an alibi. His friends in McKeesport, Patrick and Janet O’Dea, said he was at their home that evening. He had consumed several boilermakers and passed out on their bed three hours before the murder. At 1:00 a. m. they woke him. He moved to the living room so they could go to bed.
O’Dea’s two other house guests saw Slutzker’s van parked outside the house. Footprint evidence, in newly fallen snow showed no evidence that anyone walked from the house to the van.
Police charged Slutzker with homicide and solicitation to commit murder; they charged Arlene Mudd with conspiracy.
The murder charges were dismissed at a 1976 coroner’s inquest because no one could place Slutzker at the scene. However, Slutzker was convicted of trying to hire a hit man. He spent about a year in prison.
Arlene Mudd and Slutzker moved on with their lives.
In November 1990 John Mudd, Jr., 20, had a flashback memory. He recalled hearing sounds of the killing and saw a man from across the street fleeing the scene.
Slutzker was convicted of murder in January 1992. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Off and on the Innocence Institute of Point Park University has reviewed his case. On December 9, 2009, he was again convicted of first degree murder.