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Bodies, car pulled from Allegheny River

| Saturday, April 16, 2005

GILPIN -- The bodies of two missing people who worked at an Allegheny Township tavern were found Friday in a car submerged in the Allegheny River near one of the victim's homes.

The bodies of Lisa Leann Westwood, 36, of 105 Railroad St., Schenley, and Eric John Roberts, 46, of Export, were identified after being removed from the car Friday night, Armstrong County Coroner Robert Bower said.

The car was in the river next to Schenley Industrial Park near Westwood's home.

There were no apparent signs of injuries on the bodies, but state police will continue to treat the deaths as homicides until foul play can be ruled out, Bower said. Autopsies and toxicology tests are scheduled for today.

Westwood and Roberts were co-workers at J.D's Roadhouse along Route 56 in Allegheny Township, according to state police.

Trooper Joseph Murphy said they were last seen alive when they left the tavern together at about 11 p.m. Monday night. They were reported missing on Wednesday.

Bower said that the bodies appeared to have been in the water for three or four days.

It is not known where they were going after leaving the tavern, and police could not determine who was driving, according to Murphy. Bower said that was because the car twisted as it was being pulled from the water and neither body was found in the driver's seat. The bodies were fully clothed, he said.

State police from the Kittanning and Kiski Valley stations converged on the industrial park around 3 p.m. after a state police helicopter spotted a car in the river, just north of Lock and Dam No. 5 at Schenley.

Police used a pontoon boat from the neighboring Schenley Yacht Club to inspect the vehicle and determine that the car was, in fact, one they had been searching for in a missing persons case earlier this week.

Divers from Kittanning Hose Co. 6 dive team were called in to determine if there was anyone in the vehicle and to assist in pulling the car from the cold, murky water.

Once on shore, police and the coroner completed an initial inspection of the car and the bodies inside, before the vehicle was covered with a black tarp and towed to an undisclosed location for further inspection.

State police said the car, a white Chrysler Imperial, matched the car that was reported missing from J.D.'s Roadhouse on Monday night.

Roadhouse employees said Westwood was a fun and responsible co-worker.

"She never missed work," said Sarah Whitlinger, who also works at the roadhouse.

Westwood worked her normal shift Monday, which ended around 4 p.m. She stayed at the roadhouse until around 11 p.m., Whitlinger said.

Co-workers reported her missing Tuesday when she didn't show up for work, according to Whitlinger.

"We had no clue what was going on," Whitlinger said. "She's just very nice."

Westwood had worked at J.D.'s for about seven months, she said.

Neighbors said Westwood lived in Schenley with her boyfriend, a coal truck driver for a nearby coal company, but that the pair had been having relationship problems.

Police confirmed that Westwood lived with a man in Schenley, but said they had not been able to contact him yet as part of their investigation.

Patrick Shuster is a staff writer with the Kittanning Leader Times. Michael Hasch is a staff writer fir the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. VND staff writer Wynne Everett contributed to this report.

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