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Woman dismembered, man hangs self in dispute over abandoned house

March 26, 1997

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The dismembered body of a woman who had feuded with her neighbor about his dilapidated row house was found in the man’s basement, shortly before he hanged himself with his belt in a police van.

Police were called to the home of Ann Hoover when she didn’t show up at a hearing for Roy Kirk, who was appealing fines for the vacant, condemned row house he owned next door.

When they couldn’t find the 44-year-old woman, a neighbor suggested they look in Kirk’s house. They found Kirk and put him in the van, then discovered Ms. Hoover’s dismembered body in the basement.

Ms. Hoover’s limbs had been severed and wrapped, apparently for disposal, and her torso was cut across the middle, said coroner Cyril Wecht. He said she might have been strangled first with an extension cord found around her neck.

``Ann was a hard worker, she was honest as the day is long,″ said her father, Thomas Hoover, who sobbed intermittently as he stood outside his daughter’s house in the working class neighborhood of Oakland.

Kirk was shackled and his hands were cuffed behind his back in the van, yet he still managed to remove his belt, loop it around the grating and hang himself during the 12-minute ride to the police station, said Police Cmdr. Ron Freeman.

It was unclear how the property dispute escalated to a slaying.

Kirk was expected at a court hearing where he was to appeal $8,000 in fines for building code violations, including a failure to repair holes in his roof. He also faced $41,400 in separate Health Department violations, which he had not yet appealed.

Kirk’s building was condemned and the city planned to demolish it, said Dom Cimino, chief of the Bureau of Building Inspection.

Freeman described Kirk as a former mental patient and said he had received treatment at Western Psychiatric Institute.

That picture of Kirk does not conform with how Robert Gersch remembered him. There was a time when Kirk pitched in to help his neighbors. He cleared trash from vacant lots and was elected president of a neighborhood improvement group.

``All I know is when he was president of the housing club, he was effective. He took over houses in the neighborhood that no one else wanted. He was good to kids,″ Gersch said.

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