A year after DelTondo killing, Beaver DA remains mum on details
Nearly a year after Rachael DelTondo was gunned down in the driveway of her mother’s Aliquippa home, Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier broke his months of silence to say he was “pleased with the progress of the investigation.”
Lozier did not indicate what progress has been made, nor did he name any suspects or say whether investigators even have any suspects.
Lozier clamped down on information about the case after many details became public in documents related to the early stages of the investigation.
“As the District Attorney for Beaver County, I sympathize with the DelTondo family’s deep sense of loss and understand the Aliquippa community’s mourning,” Lozier said in a statement.
He said his office is “committed to bringing her murderer to justice,” and he asked for patience as the investigation enters its second year.
“Modern forensic investigations take time,” he said. “Every piece of evidence must be fully evaluated and every witness’ interview must be checked and re-checked with everything we know from every source.”
DelTondo, 33, had just been dropped off at her mother’s home on May 13 by her friend, then 17-year-old Lauren Watkins. They’d been out for ice cream with their friend Tyrie Jeter. Watkins dropped DelTondo at the home at 10:44 p.m. Four minutes later, 911 received a call about shots fired in the area.
Responding officers found DelTondo in the driveway. She’d been shot at least 10 times at close range, authorities said.
Lozier said he knows the length of the investigation is wearing on family and friends.
“I know patience is difficult in these situations, but in order for the criminal justice system to properly do its job, patience is what we must ask,” he said.
Investigators – originally the Aliquippa police – cast a wide net early on in the high-profile case. Search warrants in the immediate aftermath of the killing sought cellphone data from phones belonging to DelTondo, Watkins and Tyrie Jeter. Warrants also sought data from phones belonging to Sheldon Jeter Jr., with whom DelTondo had previously been romantically involved, and Frank Catroppa, DelTondo’s ex-fiancée.
Lozier began sealing search warrants in the weeks after the shooting. Before those search warrants were sealed, they detailed the hours leading up to DelTondo’s death.
Watkins – the daughter of an Aliquippa police officer – picked up DelTondo from her home just after 8 p.m. They drove to the Circle K convenience store on Sheffield Avenue. From there, they drove to the Hopewell home of a man warrants identified as Chris Jones and then back to DelTondo’s home so she could change clothes.
The two picked up Tyrie Jeter on Aliquippa’s Main Street about 9:30 p.m. and drove to Hank’s Frozen Custard, about 10 miles away in New Brighton, according to the search warrants.
Watkins dropped off DelTondo at her Buchanan Street home at 10:44 p.m., records show, and then left to take Tyrie Jeter back to Main Street.
Text messages show Watkins messaged DelTondo one minute before dropping her off: “Go for a walk I’ll come pick you up after.”
DelTondo responded, “U serious?” and “Haha.”
Watkins messaged DelTondo again at 11:03 p.m. to say she was on her way back to DelTondo’s home. Minutes later, Watkins tried to call.
By that time, DelTondo was dead, according to police.
Six months earlier, DelTondo had been suspended from her job as a teacher at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School after a leaked police report alleged she’d been found alone in a parked car with Sheldon Jeter Jr., then 17, according to news partner WPXI-TV. Tyrie Jeter the brother of Sheldon Jeter Jr.
Sgt. Kenneth Watkins was one of the Aliquippa police officers who responded to that incident. He has been placed on administrative leave because his daughter was with DelTondo before she was shot.
Kenneth Watkins was one of several Aliquippa officers placed on leave in the shooting’s aftermath. Beaver County detectives took over the case in June at the request of acting Chief Robert Sealock.
Chief Don Couch was placed on administrative leave June 6 for unspecified reasons, and two days later the officer named to replace him on an interim basis, Assistant Chief Joseph Perciavalle III, was arrested for allegedly sending lewd text messages to a group that included Lauren Watkins, DelTondo’s friend. Perciavalle’s alleged texts were discovered as part of the DelTondo investigation.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .