Kenneth Hairston, Pennsylvania


Update: Monday, February 23, 2015 1:23 pm EST

Kenneth Hairston was scheduled to be executed shortly after 7 pm EST, on Thursday, March 5, 2015, at the State Correctional Institute Rockview, in Rockview, Pennsylvania. Kenneth's execution was stayed. Sixty-three-year-old Kenneth is convicted of the murder of his 45-year-old wife Catherine and his 14-year-old autistic son, Sean, on June 11, 2001, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kenneth has spent the last 12 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Kenneth acknowledged that he was an alcoholic and daily pot smoker prior to his arrest. Kenneth worked as a landscaper before his arrest.

On May 21, 2000, Kenneth Hairston went to the apartment of his 20-year-old step-daughter Chetia Hurtt. Chetia did not have a good relationship with Hairston as he frequently threatened to kill her and her family. The night before, Hairston had left a threatening message on her machine, causing her to ask a male friend to stay with her. The next morning, Chetia begged her friend to stay and not leave as Hairston ordered. Hairston then removed his clothes and attempted to remove Chetia’s clothes, although she fought back. After her friend left, he found a police officer and told the officer what was occurring. When police arrived at Chetia’s apartment, they discovered a half-dressed Hairston in the apartment, along with a weapon that he was not licensed to carry. When police attempted to arrest him, Hairston began screaming “I can't go to jail. I’m not going to jail.” He then jumped head first out of a window. Chetia filed criminal charges against Hairston.


Approximately one year later on June 11, 2001, while Hairston was await trial for his assault on Chetia, Hairston requested that his son not be picked up for school that day. Two neighbors who spoke to Hairston that morning noticed that he seemed agitated and smelled strongly of alcohol. Shortly thereafter, neighbors noticed thick black smoking coming from the home.


Firefighters that were called to the scene discovered the front and back doors locked and barricaded. Eventually, they gained entry into the home, and discovered that it was covered in garbage bags and other various items of debris. Sean was discovered alive, covered with a blanket and under bags and debris. He died while being treated in the hospital. He had suffered two or three incidents of blunt force trauma to his head.


Katherine was discovered in the kitchen with a hole in the side of her head. She was dead when they found her. It was later discovered that she had no evidence of carbon monoxide or cyanide in her blood, meaning she was killed prior to the fire being set.


Katherine’s mother, who also lived in the house, was found in a bedroom, incapacitated. She was safely removed from the home and survived.


Hairston was located inside of the kitchen, at the top of the basement stairwell. He had several puncture wounds to his chest and a cut on his neck. He attempted to fight with the paramedics, who eventually had to restrain him with handcuffs and a paralytic drug before transporting him to the hospital.


Hairston eventually confessed to striking his wife and son with a 10 pound sledgehammer, before discarding it. He then went to a local bar for a few drinks before returning to the house. He poured gasoline over the basement floor, which ignited from the water heater before he was ready. He stabbed himself twice in the chest and laid down next to his wife, intending to kill them all. He intentionally piled garbage through the house to make sure that they all were killed, because he did not want them to see his trial for sexual assault.


Hairston was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder on April 17, 2002, and sentenced to death on July 11, 2002.


On Friday, February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in the state. Governor Wolf has announced that all execution in the state of Pennsylvania are on hold until he receives and reviews a report on capital punishment in the state, which was ordered in 2011. In his announcement, he called the death penalty in Pennsylvania a "flawed system," "ineffective," "unjust," and "expensive." The governor will continue to issue stay of executions until all problems in the report are satisfactorily addressed. Read more about the announcement here.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Katherine and Sean. Please pray for strength for the family of Kenneth Hairston. Please pray that Kenneth may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.



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