William Wasco met Anna Sestak, a fellow Hungarian immigrant, not long after he had been released from the Allegheny County Workhouse on an assault charge and she had arrived in this country. When Wasco’s attention escalated to persistent efforts to marry Sestak, “a well formed, handsome girl of the Hungarian type of beauty,” she rebuffed him and changed her home and job to avoid his advances.
Wasco, who worked as a broommaker at a downtown factory, followed her. His attention escalated to pleadings and then to threats and then to violence.
On Saturday, May 6, 1899, Wasco shot and killed Sestak at her 862 Second Avenue, downtown residence and then turned his gun on himself. It was reported that his wounds would be fatal.
Despite Wasco’s obvious harassment of Sestak, news reports described his interest in her as “love.” Despite the lack of evidence that Sestak ever reciprocated any interest in Wasco, news reports described their relationship as a romance and caused by her beauty.
With multiple witnesses and an undisputed set of facts, Wasco was convicted on June 28, 1899, and sentenced to death. His defense was drunkenness.
After his conviction, Wasco again attempted suicide by making a “ vigorous attempt” to jump through a window on the Bridge of Sighs and then by bashing his head against his stone cell walls.
Later, he and fellow condemned inmate William Patterson were stopped by jail authorities before they could carry out their plan to slash their throats with razors.
Compounding the tragedy of the case, Wasco’s brother, Joseph, committed suicide in a blast furnace in Braddock on December 17, 1899, just weeks before his brother’s execution. He had worked tirelessly for William’s release and killed himself when he saw it was hopeless.
William Wasco was executed on January 9, 1900. Newspaper accounts described the hanging as especially religious and successful. Eights months had passed since Sestak’s murder.