ALIQUIPPA (KDKA) – Investigators are trying to untangle the series of events leading up to the murder of 33-year-old teacher Rachael DelTondo, of Aliquippa.
But the investigation is being complicated by the fact that certain events leading up to her murder occurred nearly three years ago, and the chief investigating agency, the Aliquippa Police Department, was involved in some of them.
Here’s a timeline of events:
Aliquippa police encounter DelTondo and then-17-year-old Aliquippa High School football and basketball star Sheldon Jeter in a car, parked, with the engine off, on the grounds of the old Aliquippa hospital.
In an incident report, police describe the windows as steamed over and Jeter’s seat as reclined. When they ask DelTondo what the couple is doing, she tells police she is simply counseling Jeter who she describes as a former student. DelTondo is not charged and police drive Jeter home.
DelTondo appears in a KDKA-TV “Get Marty” story where she and her mother ask KDKA-TV investigative reporter Marty Griffin to mediate a dispute over DelTondo’s wedding dress.
DelTondo and her fiancé, Beaver County businessman Frank Catroppa, 36, call off their wedding.
The incident report on the encounter between DelTondo and Jeter in the parking lot is leaked to the press and to DelTondo’s employer, PA Cyber Charter School, which suspends her with pay. At the time of her murder DelTondo was under that status.
State police investigate the leak, and after discovering that it came from the Aliquippa police department’s computers, suspend the department’s access to statewide databases. Access has since been restored.
State police raid the Aliquippa municipal building, searching the building for about 4 hours and removing computer hard drives and documents. The search is reportedly part of a grand jury investigation, the focus of which investigators would not reveal.
City solicitor Myron Sainovich tells the Beaver County Times he only knows that investigators were “searching for something that related to theft,” but what and by whom he couldn’t say.
Aliquippa’s finances have been under scrutiny since the city became a distressed community under the state’s Act 47 program in 1987.
Sunday, May 13, 2018:
DelTondo and two friends go for ice cream at a local shop. After the friends drop her off at her mother’s home, DelTondo is gunned down in the driveway.
Witnesses report hearing up to a dozen shots.
In addition to canvassing the scene, police take items including DelTondo’s cell phone, which is sent to a forensic lab in Harrisburg for analysis and to unlock data, texts and other communications that occurred before the murder. “We’re investigating everyone that was driving in Aliquippa that night that was anywhere near this young lady’s house,” says Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier. “We’re working with every resource we have.”
Monday, May 14, 2018:
Police interview Sheldon Jeter. Jeter’s attorney Michael Santicola says Jeter tells them he had nothing to do with DelTondo’s murder, and that in fact, despite their on-again off-again romantic relationship, the two were still friends. Police execute a search warrant and seize Jeter’s cell phone.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018:
Police investigators and DA David Lozier meet behind closed doors to discuss the case.
Afterwards, Lozier tells reporters that the leak of the incident report on the encounter between DelTondo and Jeter was “a personal vendetta.”
He also says he believe DelTondo knew her killer, and that the murder was a “crime of passion.”
Lozier attempts to quash speculation that DelTondo’s murder and the police department leak are at all related. “To the best of my knowledge there was no active investigation arising from any information she had regarding anything in Aliquippa.”
Wednesday, May 16, 2018:
DelTondo’s ex-fiancé, 36 year old Frank Catroppa, and his attorney Stephen Colafella, meet with reporters, including KDKA’s Andy Sheehan.
Catroppa denies having anything to do with the murder, and says he provided an alibi to investigators that he had been with his mother and the mother of his current girlfriend all day.
Catroppa’s attorney tells reporters video surveillance from the complex near Catroppa’s home confirms this. “We wanted to be absolutely clear that Frank Catroppa had absolutely nothing to do with what happened,” the attorney tells Sheehan.
In addition, the attorney tells reporters that Catroppa and DelTondo, who had been together for 8 years, continued to be “friendly” after their break up, and that his client has no motive to kill her. “When you’re with someone for eight years you just hope that they get justice,” Catroppa tells reporters. “It’s a sad, sad case.”
Thursday, May 17, 2018:
Sheldon Jeter’s attorney, Michael Santicola, interviews with reporter Andy Sheehan, saying his client had nothing to do with DelTondo’s murder and had “no animosity” toward her and “no motive” to kill her.
Instead, Santicola tells Andy, his client believes DelTondo was going to testify before a Grand Jury about corruption in Aliquippa, and was uneasy about it.
Beaver Countian founder and reporter John Paul tells CBS correspondent Nikki Battiste that DelTondo told him she had received threats including one that promised she wouldn’t live to see the end of 2018. Paul says DelTondo told him she was concerned enough to contact Aliquippa Police to take a report. When asked if he thinks DelTondo was living in fear, Paul replies “at times, certainly I think she was.”