Police probing murder-suicide
Couple found dead Saturday
Butler Eagle
Written by:
January 30, 2013

CENTER TWP — A couple’s sometimes turbulent relationship came to a violent end Saturday when the man gunned down his girlfriend, then committed suicide, authorities said.

Responding to a call that shots were fired in the village of Unionville about 1:40 a.m., state police found 45-year-old Sonja Kummer lying dead on the snow-covered stone driveway at her Brown Road trailer home.

Investigators suspect Kummer was packing up her belongings and moving out when Dean V. Clawson, 49, opened fire on her with a Remington pump shotgun.

She was hit from behind three times in the neck and upper back. Troopers found Kummer’s body just 10 feet from her still idling car and about 15 feet from the front door where she had fled.

Police believe that after killing his girlfriend, Clawson walked back into the home, sat down on the living room couch and fired one more time from the same shotgun — ending his life.

A month earlier, the couple had apparently committed to marry.

“The rumor was they had gotten engaged over Christmas,” said Trooper Gesuele Burello.

Butler County Coroner William Young III pronounced Kummer and Clawson dead at the scene. An autopsy found she died of multiple gunshot wounds. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

Both were shot with a shotgun containing bird or steel shot, said county Deputy Coroner Dennis Trzeciak, who was called to assist Young.

Police have ruled the shooting a murder-suicide.

“It’s a tragedy that’s still open for investigation to see what set this off,” Burello said.

The couple — she a nurse’s aide and he a machinist — had a somewhat stormy history together, police and neighbors said.

Police acknowledged they were called to the home in December when the pair got into a heated argument.

“She kicked him out,” said one neighbor of last month’s incident that prompted police to respond.

“Hearing them argue wasn’t unusual,” said the same neighbor, who did not want to be identified “They played their music loud. They argued loud. That’s the way they were. They were loud people.”

But neither Clawson nor Kummer had ever been arrested for domestic violence.

Of the two, only Clawson had a criminal record. His prior offenses, court records showed, were primarily for drunken driving.

His most recent arrest for driving under the influence in 2010 in Hampton Township, Allegheny County, ended in conviction. He was sentenced to house arrest and probation.

In 1996, Jackson Township police arrested Clawson for felony and misdemeanor assault and traffic violations in connection with a hit-and-run accident. The most serious charges were withdrawn.

Except for the sound of dogs barking in the heavily-wooded distance, the neighborhood on Brown Road was quiet Sunday morning, barely 24 hours after the double fatal shooting.

Most neighbors didn’t want to talk about what happened.

However, the evidence at the crime scene spoke to the events that played out there.

The blood-stained snow marked where Kummer died.

Several oversized plastic bags stuffed with clothing and bedding items inside her silver Ford Escort station wagon indicated Kummer’s attempted getaway.

On the front porch was another plastic bag crammed with food. Next to the bagged food was a nearly full gallon container of liquid detergent.

“She was in the process of taking all her stuff and leaving,” Burello said.

Footprints worn into the snow around and in and out the front door of the trailer revealed the scrutiny of the police investigation the previous day.

Neighbors said Clawson moved into the white-sided, single wide trailer last summer. He rented the home from Peter Saul, who owns several other properties on the same road between McCandless and Unionville roads.

A month or two later, Kummer moved in.

Neighbors admitted they didn’t know too much about the couple. Each had one child, they believed. She had moved there from Connoquenessing and she worked in Pittsburgh.

His parents lived in suburban Pittsburgh, neighbors related, and he worked for Industrial Machine Inc. in Zelienople.

“(Clawson) pretty much had a machine shop in there,” said a neighbor, pointing to a wooded shed in back of the trailer.

Kummer’s obituary is on Page 16.