Mansion Caretaker Sued for Drinking $102,000 of Historical Whiskey

The caretaker has quite a bar tab to pay off

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The butler did it. It’s the common trope in old mysteries, but in this case, it was the caretaker.

John Saunders, 62, the former live-in caretaker of a Pittsburgh-area mansion, now faces criminal charges for allegedly drinking the owner’s stash of historical whiskey — and faces a hefty bar tab to pay off. The price tag for his drink? More than $100,000.

But it’s a crime with little proof — old whiskey is known to evaporate if not stored or sealed appropriately. So how did authorities determine it was him? DNA left on the mouth of the bottles gave up the ruthless tippler.

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The home’s owner, Patricia Hill, had found the whiskey during an extensive remodel of a turn-of-the-century mansion she had purchased and was turning into a bed and breakfast. The nine cases of Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey were found hidden in the walls and stairwell of the house, which was built by J.P. Brennan, a coal and coke industrialist. “My guess is that Mr. Brennan ordered 10 cases … pre-Prohibition,” Hill told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was told by his family that family members used to greet him at the door each day with a shot of whiskey.”

Hill stored the whiskey trove with plans of preserving it, but when the caretaker moved out, she discovered dozens of bottles were now empty. While Saunders initially denied the charges, a DNA test proved that he had been sipping straight from several of the bottles. Now Saunders is accused of drinking 52 bottles worth of historical whiskey, which was bottled in 1912 at the nearby West Overton Distilling Co. and valued at $102,400 by a New York auction house.

Saunders has been charged with receiving stolen property and theft. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

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