News Alert
Skydiver ID'd After Fatal South Jersey Fall In…

Unsolved Cases: Richard and Donna Hyde of Moon Township

While it is widely believed that serial killer Edward Surratt is responsible for their deaths, he never admitted to the slayings nor was he ever charged in their deaths.

Richard Hyde, the principal of Fern Hollow Elementary School in Moon Township, was talking with a friend on the phone in the bedroom of his home he shared with his wife, Donna and two daughters.

That was about 1 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, 1977.

During the conversation, he heard glass break in a window on the other end of his ranch home. After hanging up, he walked past a nightstand that contained a loaded gun and proceeded to the hallway, according to a story in the Beaver County Times.

A 12-gauge shotgun blast ripped through his chest/abdomen area. He staggered to the kitchen, past his wife who was in a bathroom off the hallway, and died in a pool of blood on the linoleum floor of the kitchen.

Donna, a beautician who had a shop in her home, immediately tried to escape and run for help. The Beaver County Times story reports that she ran from the house, over a hill into thick woods on property owned by her father-in-law. As she neared his house, the wooded hill was too muddy and the two sets of footprints in the snow show how she didn't get enough traction to make it up the slope.

Instead, she headed toward another set of nearby homes, losing her shoes in the cold snow and mud. She never made it.

Moon Township and Allegheny County police responded to a call at the Hyde home on Shafer Road on Saturday morning. There they found the couple's daughters—Kelli, 9, and Karri, 4—and Hyde's body. Donna, 34, was missing and presumed abducted.

Searchers did not find Donna's body until Sunday. Her body was found in a wooded area about two miles from her home, face-up under a pine tree, clothed only in a sweater and a sock. Her pants and panties were balled up under the tree.

She had been bludgeoned to death by an instrument like a blackjack, the blows to her head so severe that, according to a coroner's office employee, she would have suffered severe long-term brain damage had she survived exposure to the bitter cold.

An initial investigation did not show any signs of sexual assault, the Pittsburgh Press reported. She had not been raped.

On Dec. 7, 1977, Moon Township canceled all classes and activities in memory of the Hyde family on the day of the funeral for Richard and Donna. The school where he served as principal changed its name to honor him and is now the Richard J. Hyde Elementary School.

Their slayings were the 26th and 27th in southwestern Pennsylvania since March 1976. The deaths left an already uneasy area more uneasy, to the point that animal shelters reported that even dogs with questionable temperaments were adopted and people wouldn't open doors to police unless they called ahead.

Just a little more than a month before the Hydes were killed, John Feeny, a 17-year-old from Coraopolis, was found slumped over the armrest of the rear seat of his blood-splattered van.

He'd been shot once in the neck at close range with a shotgun on a secluded dirt road off Crescent Drive near the airport in Findlay Township. The engine was still running.

In trying to find a link to the other area slayings, investigators discovered that the shell casing found in the Hyde home matched one found in the home of Nancy and William Adams Jr. of Fallston, Beaver County. William had been killed by a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the chest on Nov. 20, 1977.

Like Donna Hyde, his wife Nancy was missing—and her remains weren't found until eight years later in nearby Brady's Run Park, according to the Beaver County Times.

Serial killer Edward Surratt had long been the prime suspect in the death of the Hydes and many others in this area during that period.

Surratt was never charged in any of the southwestern Pennsylvania deaths he is suspected of committing, only in homicides that occurred out of state. In 2007, he finally confessed to killing John Feeny and Ranee McGregor but not the Hydes.


VIEW other stories in the unsolved cases series.

Karri Hyde February 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Kind of a sickening thing to read first thing in the morning. To not have parents to love and cherish for most of my life, to have kids that don't have grandparents to spoil them is crushing. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish for them to be with me. So many people take their parents for granted and complain about them, I am one person that will tell them differently. Karri Hyde
Sandie Baer Pullins February 25, 2013 at 07:22 PM
wow this brings back such terrible memories. Donna was my cousin and we had been to Pennsylvania the weekend before this to spend the time with family. Donna and Rich were such awesome people. They loved their two girls so much. They would be so proud of the wonderful girls and mothers that they have become considering the terrible tragedy in their life. Even though their mom and dad are not with them physically they are with them in the wonderful mothers that they are.
Thomas Leonard March 11, 2013 at 01:23 AM
There is no way anyone who has not endured a similar tragedy can even begin to understand how someone would be effected by something like this. Everyone reading this should be thankfull we live in a region where crimes such as this are exceedingly rare. The Hyde girls were not the only small children left behind in these attacks, at least two other families belived to have been among Surrat's victims had children in the home at the time of the incidents. One can only hope that in each case the children had strong family to raise and support them and help them overcome such a traumatic event, hopefully becoming productive citizens themseleves. Everyone reading this should not only be gratefull if that occured, they should also take a moment and think of those brave family members, being there for those kids to turn too while dealing with their own loss. As much sympathy as I have I cant fathom how difficult that would be. This was a truly difficult time for our region in Western PA. There were several detectives & law enforcement officials who worked endless hours trying to end these attacks,solve the cases, something most of them likely never dreamed they would be tasked to do, They also deserve to be remembered.
Jim Feeny April 07, 2013 at 02:25 AM
Parents send their children out on dates all the time expecting their children to come home. The son took the family van out on a first date with a very sweet girl, with instructions to have the car home at a specific time. When he did not show up at the appointed time, unspoken fears gripped the parents hearts. Where were those kids? The mother got a ride to work from a generous neighbor. All night long, telephone calls to the local police departments and between parents, "Is there any news?" All during the day, telphone calls to friends and aquaintances to no avail. Late in the afternoon, two homicide detectives from the Allegheny County Police Department, the Robinson Township chief of police and a Coraopolis police officer arrive at the house and question all the residents. Constant telephone calls by the police officers made and received. This was long before cell phones. Then, the announcement, the van was found behind Pittsburgh Airport off Route 30 in Clinton. There was the body of a dead male in it. He had been shot at close range with a shotgun. There was no identification on the body, so the parents will need to come to the Allegheny County Morgue to make an identification. The father told the mother that she was not going in there to see the body. If it was her son, she was not going to see him in that condition. It was their son
Jack Neville May 03, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Surratt is an evil man, only he knows we're the bodies were left after raping and torturing them!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something