Skip to main site content.
York County Detention Center (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
York County Detention Center (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Cold case

Grandma who kids say joked about feeding corpses to pigs charged with killing 3rd husband

By WITW Staff on May 3, 2019

Seven years after the mysterious discovery of a plastic, vacuum-sealed FoodSaver bag with a human scalp in it, DNA analysis of the skull has implicated a 67-year-old grandmother in the murder of her third husband.

Virginia L. Hayden, a York Country, Penn. resident, was arrested on Monday on charges of homicide and 64 additional counts — among them, forgery, theft, conspiracy and tampering with public records. Authorities allege that Hayden murdered her husband, Thomas Hayden, who disappeared in 2011 at the age of 62.

The arrest came after Kim Via, Thomas Hayden’s estranged daughter, asked police to do a welfare check after repeated attempts to contact him by phone were intercepted by her stepmother, who allegedly insisted that her father didn’t want to talk to her. When authorities investigated the apartment where Via thought her father had been living, they found Virginia Hayden’s granddaughter instead. She hadn’t seen Thomas Hayden in seven years. And neither, it turned out, had anyone else.

As the investigation continued, police discovered that Thomas had apparently sold the couple’s condo to Virginia for just $1 in November 2013 — two years after he was last seen. A year later, Virginia sold the house for $135,000. A handwriting expert employed by police concluded that Thomas’s signature had been forged by Virginia. As authorities grew increasingly suspicious, they gathered DNA samples from Hayden’s two brothers and discovered that the mysterious skull found seven years ago almost certainly belonged to one of their siblings.

Hayden has denied killing her husband, but her relatives say she had a penchant for morbid jokes about how to dispose of bodies. Her daughter, Carolyn Cooksey, told police that Hayden liked to bring up how pigs would eat an entire human corpse with the exception of the skull. Hayden’s grandson, Michael Harris, recalled similar conversations — including one instance in which his grandmother told him that it would be easy to kill someone with a heart condition if you gave them more than their recommended dosage of nitroglycerin oral spray. Hayden’s second husband, incidentally, died of a heart attack.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.


Christopher Watts, man who pleaded guilty to murdering his wife and 2 daughters, sentenced to life in prison

In tireless one-woman project, nurse creates a database of women murdered by men in the U.S., remembering their lives

Police say high school football player confesses to murdering cheerleader who was pregnant with his child