Bizarre story of a disappearance of a York County man leads to charges against Texas woman, leaves questions unanswered

Connie Pender

YORK COUNTY, Pa.– A bizarre story has led to a Texas woman facing charges after allegedly tampering with public information and notarizing an illegal transfer of a missing York County man’s home to her mother.

Connie Pender, 43, of Austin, Texas is facing theft by deception, forgery and tampering with public records among other charges for her role in the incident.

The story is connected to the disappearance of a York County man named Thomas Hayden.

On January 18, 2012, a man walking along the Conewago River in Dover Township found a plastic Foodsaver bag that contained blood-stained items, including skin and hair.

The items were sent to a state police crime lab for testing, but there were no DNA matches for nearly five years.

This year, a connection was made.

On January 21, 2017, Kim Via, Hayden’s biological daughter, called state police in Carlisle to ask them to check on her father.

Via had been estranged from her father since 2005 and is currently a resident of Louisiana, but had been attempting to call him only to be turned away be her stepmother Virginia Hayden.

Virginia, Thomas’s wife, would tell Via that her father didn’t want to speak to her.

When police went to the first block Eastgate Drive in Carlisle to do a welfare check and stop by Virginia’s apartment, they found that Thomas Hayden had apparently been missing since 2011.

According to court documents, on January 22, Virginia told police that Thomas had left Pennsylvania one night in 2011 to seek medical treatment for ALS. However, Virginia provided two different accounts of his departure: one account was that he left with his brother, Spencer Hayden at night, and another that Thomas left on his own with an overnight bag.

During the interview, Virginia confirmed to authorities that she was still receiving Thomas Hayden’s social security benefits, as they were being deposited into the couple’s joint account. Records show that these payments totaled over $116,000.

Later that same day, police went to the 3000 block of Barley Circle, which was the Hayden’s former residence. While attempting to find Thomas, police spoke with the home’s new owner, Robert Denoncourt.

Denoncourt told police that he had bought the home from Virginia in November 2014 and during the process of completing the purchase, Virginia told Denoncourt that her husband was deceased.

Police reviewed the deed of the property and found that in November 2013, Thomas had sold his share of the Barley Circle home to Virginia Hayden for one dollar.

The deed transfer showed that Pender, the daughter of Virginia Hayden, was the notary for Thomas’s signature.

Police brought the deed transfer to a handwriting expert that determined that Thomas’s signature was actually written by Virginia.

While reviewing additional records about the sale of the home, police found that Virginia sold Denoncourt the home for $135,000, but in order for her to complete the sale of the home, Pender signed and notarized a Specialty Warranty Deed removing Thomas’s name.

On January 27, police interviewed Spencer and Owen Hayden, Thomas’s brothers.

Both told police that neither had seen or spoken to Thomas since October 2010, and denied ever taking their brother to get medical treatment.

The Hayden brothers voluntarily submitted DNA samples that were then compared to the DNA found in the Foodsaver bag five years earlier.

Results of the tests indicated that the blood, skin, and hair found in the bag likely belonged to a sibling of the Hayden brothers.

As the police’s investigation continued, they found that Virginia had previously spoken about disposing of bodies, specifically referencing “feeding a body to pigs.”

Carolyn Cooksey, Virginia’s daughter, told police that Virginia described how pigs “would eat everything but the skull.”

Michael Harris, Virginia’s grandson, said he too had conversations with his grandmother about getting rid of bodies.

Harris recounted that Virginia told him that if you fed a body to pigs, they would eat everything but the hair. He also told police that he was close to his grandparents, but hadn’t seen his grandfather in several years.

In February 2017, police interviewed a former Barley Circle neighbor, who told police that her husband knew Thomas Hayden well, and that they would sit on the front porch and talk.

When police asked the neighbor if she had seen Thomas recently, she said that Virginia told her that Thomas had moved to Mexico for ALS treatment and had died there.

The neighbor noted that it was odd that Thomas just disappeared one day, and that her son-in-law would joke that he was buried in the backyard because Virginia had a concrete slab that doubled the size of the patio, poured behind her house.

As police continued to review records, they found that the last time Thomas had been seen by a doctor was September 27, 2011, and that he had an appointment scheduled for October 25. That appointment was canceled by Virginia, who said that her husband was no longer in the area.

Police obtained records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that showed that Virginia had bought a .357 caliber handgun from a store in York on October 2, 2011. When police asked her where the gun was, she told police that she had sold the gun through a dealer, but there are no ATF records of a sale.

Police executed a search warrant on Virginia’s home and found a lock box that contained Thomas’s driver’s license, Social Security and Medicare cards along with his passport.

They also found a day planner from 2011, with a note on Nov. 1 that said “Tom left for Mexico.”

While searching the home, police found a Foodsaver system, similar to the bag that the blood, hair and skin had been found in in 2012.

Police again interviewed Virginia on July 11, who gave conflicting accounts of Thomas’s disappearance.

She told police that Thomas had left sometime in 2011 and took $40,000 in cash, and that she had spoke to him recently but couldn’t provide a phone number or recall when they had spoken.

When police asked if Virginia knew her husband’s whereabouts, she told police “maybe you ought to check the grave of my second husband for him.”

On December 12, police filed charges against Pender, but the investigation into Thomas Hayden’s disappearance continues.