Woman confessed to pushing grandmother down flight of stairs to her death, detectives say

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A woman has been arrested after she pushed her grandmother down a flight of stairs last year, Rowan County Sherriff’s detectives say.

In October of 2019, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office responded to the death of Peggy Austin, 87, in Kannapolis. At the start of the investigation, her death seemed to be caused by a fall, detectives said. But the NC Medical Examiner determined Austin was hurt too seriously at the time of her death for it to be caused by a fall.

Rowan County detectives believed the crime scene was staged. Austin’s granddaughter, Sarah Smith, and Smith’s boyfriend, Brandon Joines lived with her.

Detectives discovered Smith and Joines had used Austin’s money fraudulently and believed this to be motive for Austin’s death.

On Tuesday, Mooresville police officers arrested Smith on a warrant for embezzlement and Joines on a warrant for aid and abetting the embezzlement. Mooresville officers charged Smith with several drug charges after finding a large amount of methamphetamine in her car at the time of her arrest.

Smith was taken to Rowan County, where she confessed to pushing her grandmother down a flight of stairs, causing Austin’s death.

Smith and Joines were taken Wednesday to the Rowan County Detention Center, each with $50,000 bonds for their embezzlement charges. Smith was also served with a warrant for second degree murder and given an additional $100,000 bond.

Additional charges may be added after further investigation by Rowan County detectives.