Shaler man charged with homicide, abuse of corpse in McKeesport woman’s death
A Shaler man police accused Saturday of killing his girlfriend and trying to hide her body in a refrigerator and then a shallow backyard grave has a history of domestic abuse charges and a weekend drinking habit that, neighbors said, made him behave erratically.
Allegheny County Police charged George Biegenwald, 57, with criminal homicide, evidence tampering and abuse of a corpse in connection with the death of Donna See, who had been missing since Aug. 14.
An autopsy is planned on remains found in a shallow pit midway down a steep cliff behind Biegenwald’s yard on Clifton Avenue in Shaler.
In a criminal complaint, detectives wrote that See, 50, appeared to have suffered “massive trauma to the front, back and left side of her head.”
During a Friday evening interrogation, authorities said Biegenwald confessed to Allegheny County Police detectives that See died in a booze-fueled fight that began in his driveway and ended up in a second floor bedroom.
Biegenwald said that during the fight, she jumped on his back and beat him with a massager until “he flung her off” and her head struck a dresser, according to court documents. He later told police that he tried to restore her heartbeat and stop the bleeding, but then put her in the tub and turned on the shower, “at which time she died,” the criminal report states.
After abandoning See’s Kia SUV along Kelly Street in Homewood, Biegenwald spent the next three days excavating her grave on a steep and heavily wooded incline, authorities said. He spread bleach around the area to keep animals away.
The couple met 10 months ago on the online dating website Plenty of Fish.
Biegenwald’s neighbors told the Tribune-Review that the retired construction worker has had run-ins with police. Shaler police on Tuesday charged him with aggravated assault, related to an incident with another woman. In a similar Christmas Eve arrest in 2010, a woman left his home in an ambulance. He pleaded guilty to that domestic assault in 2011 and drew two years of probation, according to court records. In 1990, he was convicted of drunk driving.
“Honestly, I’m surprised he was able to get up and down the hill,” said neighbor Dale Hayden, 44, the owner of a painting company. “He’d retired on disability because of his back and said that he wasn’t supposed to be drinking but that he needed it for the pain, that the pills didn’t work.
Neighbors said that Biegenwald drank heavily on the weekends, played loud music and could be heard shouting swear words.
“If you saw him during the day, you wouldn’t think about him doing this, not killing somebody. He was a different person when he wasn’t drinking,” Hayden said.
Hayden had revamped parts of Biegenwald’s home and said the refrigerator where the homicide suspect allegedly placed See’s body usually contained beer.
Originally from Ridgefield, N.J., See had worked as a driver for S&S Transit in North Versailles for nearly five years. The mother of a grown son, she was in the process of divorcing her long-estranged husband, said friend and co-worker Margie Byers, 42, of Belle Vernon.
“She hadn’t shown up for work, so I called her, but she never returned my messages,” said Byers, who printed fliers with See’s picture and started an online campaign to find her.
“She was the type of person who always did nice things for others. She collected rocks, and there was this one time when she found one that was heart-shaped. She gave it to me to cheer me up. That’s the type of person she was,” Byers said.
Byers doubts Biegenwald’s version of events because See was “one of the most timid people I’ve ever met” and small compared to Biegenwald.
Byers said that she and other co-workers had grown concerned about See’s safety, saying that the driver arrived at work with bruises, which she shrugged off with thin excuses.
Biegenwald is in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing.
Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826 or firstname.lastname@example.org.