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Acting Pa. police chief removes department from teacher homicide probe


By Jonathan D. Silver and Shelly Bradbury, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Aliquippa police are no longer involved in investigating the murder of a teacher last month following a decision Wednesday by the acting chief to remove his department from the probe.

“I made that decision yesterday. I just think it’s the best move right now,” Acting Chief Robert Sealock said Thursday without elaborating.

The chief declined to provide a specific reason for his decision and referred to an open letter he drafted.

That four-paragraph signed statement does not give any explanation beyond saying the chief was “recusing” the department from investigating the fatal shooting May 13 of Rachael DelTondo, 33, in her driveway.

“Moving forward, I will make myself available and provide information and assistance to any and all agencies in the proactive investigation of this troubling and senseless crime,” the letter states. “I have full confidence that the investigating agencies will unravel this crime and will prevail in bringing the guilty culprit or culprits to justice.”

Investigators believe Ms. DelTondo, who had been suspended from her job as an elementary-level teacher with The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, was shot multiple times at close range and was the killer’s intended target, police said. Ms. DelTondo was alone when she was killed, police said.

The investigation has led police to execute numerous search warrants, mine Facebook data and phone records, and look into Ms. DelTondo’s friends and current and former lovers in an effort to uncover a motive for her slaying and find her killer.

Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier, who said Thursday that his office’s detectives have been and continue to be in charge of the homicide investigation, commended the two Aliquippa detectives who had been working the case.

He said the decision to remove the Aliqiuppa Police Department from the probe was Chief Sealock’s, did not involve input from the DA, and was an internal matter.

“He’s going to run his department the way he needs to. He’s down three people so he’s under a lot of pressure,” Mr. Lozier said, referring to recent personnel upheaval at the department.

As for the status of the DelTondo case, Mr. Lozier said, “I’m comfortable where we are in the investigation, but we have to wait for forensics to verify certain facts before we make an arrest ...The electronic, the DNA, fingerprints — all that takes weeks, sometimes months.”

Asked if investigators had a suspect, he said, “I can’t say that.”

Mr. Lozier said he met personally with the chief Thursday morning to offer congratulations and assistance. He said he became aware Wednesday that the department was leaning toward pulling out of its involvement with the DelTondo case.

“There were lots of meetings yesterday. I think there was a full day of meetings between the chief, his personnel, city council,” Mr. Lozier said.

Chief Sealock’s decision comes amid a turbulent time for the small department, which went through three chiefs in three days. Last week the city council voted unanimously to place Chief Donald A. Couch Jr. on paid administrative leave so an unspecified “accusation” could be investigated.

His replacement, Assistant Chief Joseph Perciavalle III, was arrested Friday, charged with sending a sexually explicit text to a 17-year-old girl who is a witness in Ms. DelTondo’s homicide.

Separately, Sgt. Kenneth Watkins was placed on paid leave the day after Ms. DelTondo’s death because he, his wife and 17-year-old daughter were close friends with the slain teacher and needed time to grieve, according to then-Chief Couch.


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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Acting Pa. police chief removes department from teacher homicide probe
Acting Pa. police chief removes department from teacher homicide probe
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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