Suspect in disappearance of Whitehall woman had her cellphone, DA says
A McKeesport man suspected in the disappearance of a Whitehall woman who is presumed to be dead had the woman’s cellphone and used it to send a text message, according to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
Zappala said Elizabeth Wiesenfeld, 67, who has been missing since April 30, texted her daughter every morning. He said Douglas Berry, 47, of McKeesport, who worked for Wiesenfeld as a handyman, texted Wiesenfeld’s daughter with her mother’s phone.
Wiesenfeld’s daughter reported her missing on April 30 after her mother failed to show up for work.
“He knew something about her routine,” Zappala said. “He was in that house, and I think he met the daughter, too. The text was sent at 11 a.m., which is approximately the same time that she would text her daughter every day. We pinged a (cell) tower and we put him on the South Side, and then the cameras down there picked him up.”
Berry has not been charged with her disappearance. He is being held in Allegheny County Jail on an unrelated charge of possessing a firearm. Police found a 9mm pistol during a search of his home.
Berry pleaded guilty in 2001 to robbery in Berks County and, as a convicted felon, was prohibited from owning a gun. A judge denied bail, citing Berry as a “prime suspect in a missing person case, who is presumed dead.”
“I hope they find her alive and in good condition, but her age and the background of the individual that we believe is responsible for this – and that person is obviously innocent until proven guilty – I’m not optimistic that we’re going to find her alive,” Zappala said.
Investigators reported that they found blood in Wiesenfeld’s bed, and a “masked person” used her debit card at a PNC Bank on Route 51 sometime after her disappearance. Zappala said the suspect withdrew $500 or $600.
He said police are continuing to search for her. They previously searched a wooded area around her house using dogs that can pick up the scent of a body.
“We can’t charge homicide yet, and we’re hopeful that it’s not a homicide,” Zappala said
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .