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A feud between two South Oakland neighbors resulted in a grisly murder/suicide yesterday, as police found the dismembered body of 44-year-old Ann Hoover in the abandoned apartment beside her home.
City police discovered Roy Kirk, owner of the abandoned home on Lawn Street, cutting her body apart with a circular saw and a hand saw in the basement around nine o'clock yesterday morning.
Neighbors say Kirk was telling the police to kill him as he was taken from the home, and en route to the homicide department in East Liberty he hung himself in the back of the police van with his own belt.
Neighbors were shocked at the murder, but said the two had been fighting for years.
According to neighbors, Hoover had been pressuring Kirk over the past few years to renovate his building, and that the subject was the center of an on-going battle between the two neighbors.
Kirk owned the row house next to Hoover's for nearly five years, and in that time their friendly relationship became a series of arguments and court cases.
Chris Fromme of 318 Ophelia Street lives behind the two homes on Lawn Street and said Hoover often complained that because the homes are so close together, her building suffered water damage from Kirk's leaky roof, and that his unkempt yard and house were eyesores and attracted rodents.
"I spoke to her last Thursday, and she asked if she could take some pictures of his home from the deck on top of my house," Fromme said. "They argued a lot, but for years she tried to compromise, and even offered to buy the building from him and fix it herself, but he just wouldn't go for it."
Phillip and Mary Ellen Cossack lived on the other side of Hoover's home and said Kirk had been trying to repair his home, but didn't have the money he needed.
"[Hoover] was always taking him to court ... and the city fined him a lot of money, about $50,000," said Phillip Cossack. "All he'd worked for his whole life was pretty much gone because of her, and she kept pushing him."
Kirk was supposed to appear in court yesterday after Hoover and several other neighbors filed a lawsuit against him for neglecting his property.
When neither of them showed up, police were called to search HooverUs home, according to Pittsburgh Police Commander Ron Freeman.
"When the officers on the scene discovered she wasn't in her own home they decided to search the empty building next door," he said. "The door was open and the officers walked in, and discovered Kirk in the basement cutting her body into pieces."
Once discovered, Kirk exploded in rage and began fighting with police, and Freeman said it took four officers to subdue him.
The Cossacks said the dirty, barefoot, and shirtless Kirk was saying "Kill me, please kill me now!" as the police escorted him from the building.
"Usually he was pretty clean looking, but I think he was completely out of his mind at that point," Phillip Cossack said.
His hands cuffed behind him, Kirk was placed in the back of a police van, but on the way to the station in East Liberty managed to free the belt on his pants and hang himself.
"This man wanted to die, and was determined to kill himself one way or the other," Freeman said. "There's no way we could have stopped him."
Though there was only a minor infraction in Kirk's criminal record, Freeman said he had severe mental problems and had previously spent time under psychiatric evaluation.
Kirk apparently pulled on his belt until the buckle slid over to his hands at which point he undid the belt and pulled it through the loops.
"Once the belt was free he slipped the loop through the buckle again and tied the free end to a steel grating in the back of the van," Freeman said. "After that he just slipped his head through the loop and leaned forward. His own weight was enough to strangle and kill him."
Though there was a window looking into the back of the van, Freeman said the officers had no idea or reason to believe he was killing himself.
"Officers transport thousands of people a year in those vans and they had no idea he would do that to himself," Freeman said.
The neighbors around that small South Oakland street overlooking the Monongahela are still in shock, many saying they should have seen this violent climax coming.
"[Hoover] was not the saint that everyone is making her out to be, and Kirk is not the monster everyone says he is," said Mary Ellen Cossack. "She hassled him and hassled him, and he always kept quiet and listened to her. Now it looks like she pushed him too far and he finally blew up."
Fromme said Kirk had always appeared "kind of off," but was an otherwise nice person.
"I never thought he would do something so inhuman," Fromme said. "No matter what [Hoover] did to him as far as arguing goes, what he did to her was completely unreasonable and horrifying."