Kannapolis woman confesses to fatally pushing 87-year-old grandma down stairs, staging crime scene for money

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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A Kannapolis woman was charged for the October 2019 death of her 87-year-old grandmother after she confessed to pushing her down the stairs, staging a fall, and using her money, according to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

RCSO said deputies responded to the death of 87-year-old Peggy Austin in October 2019. Detectives were called to the scene and determined that the death appeared to have been from a tragic fall.

However, The N.C. Medical Examiner believed the injuries to Austin were “a bit too severe for a normal fall,” leading detectives to believe the crime scene may have been staged.

RCSO said detectives also learned that the grandmother’s daughter, 28-year-old Sarah Smith and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Brandon Joines, had been using Austin’s money. They believed this could have been the motive for her death.

“She was a loveable, caring, and giving person. I think I can speak for the whole neighborhood that she was loved by everybody,” said Tony Sheeks, 80, who called Austin a friend.

Sheeks says faith and family were very important to Austin and she also enjoyed watching the Atlanta Braves.

“I like to call it uncalled for,” Sheeks described the circumstances surrounding his friend’s death.

On December 23, 2020, RCSO obtained an arrest warrant for embezzlement for Smith and a warrant for Joines for aid and abetting the embezzlement. Both were arrested on Dec. 29 in Mooresville.

Smith was also charged with a number of drug charges after meth was found in her car when she was arrested.

After a long interview with Rowan County detectives, Smith confessed to pushing Austin down the stairs. Sarah Smith was additionally charged with second-degree murder. More charges are possible pending further investigation.

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