Kenneth Hairston

Kenneth Hairston was out on bail and awaiting trial on charges that he had repeatedly raped his stepdaughter, Chetia Hurtt, when he killed his wife, Catherine, in their 5447 Rosetta St., Garfield home on June 11, 2001. Hairston’s 14-year old son, Sean, was also badly beaten. He died of his injuries on June 13.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 12, 2001

After stabbing his wife and son, Hairston set their house on fire. Stab wounds and serious burns sustained by Hairston indicate he attempted suicide. Catherine died immediately; Sean died on June 13, 2001. Catherine Hairston’s mother, Goldie Hurtt, 67, who was also in the home at the time, was seriously injured due to smoke inhalation.

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In the incident that led to his pending charges, on May 21, 2000, Hairston went to 21-year old Chetia’s apartment, forced her boyfriend, Jeffrey Johnson, out at gunpoint, and tried to rape Hurtt again. Notified by Johnson, police responded and arrested Hairston. Hurtt then told police of the seven-year history of rape she had experienced.

After being arrested in the deaths of his wife and son, Hairston confessed to police that he committed the murders to protect his family from the disgrace of his rape trial. In a case that featured his own confession, multiple eyewitnesses, and a clear motive, Hairston was convicted of first-degree murder on April 17, 2002, and sentenced to death.

On appeal, Hairston raised a variety of due process, equal protection, and cruel and unusual punishment claims, all of which were rejected (Commonwealth v. Hairston, 603 Pa. 660, 2009).

After petitioning for and receiving the right to file claims that had been barred from his previous appeal, those claims were likewise rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Commonwealth v. Hairston, 624 Pa. 143, 2014).

Kenneth Hairston remains in prison under a sentence of death.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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