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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In Judge Donna Jo McDaniel’s courtroom, Laura Ditka prosecuted countless cases, helping more women and children than one can imagine.
“She was mostly involved in child sex abuse cases. She was so good with the children. She would bring them in here after hours, and tell them what the courtroom was, where they were going to sit, and where the judge would sit, and really made them feel comfortable,” said Judge McDaniel, with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Laura helped create a specialized sex offender court, the first in Allegheny County and the third in the nation.
“She was a wonderful lawyer, one of the best I’ve ever seen. And an even better human being,” said Judge McDaniel.
Over the years, the two became best friends.
“We both adopted children, foreign children, and so we had that in common. I met her plane when she landed with Chloe from China,” said Judge McDaniel.
Pennsylvania Inspector General Bruce Beemer was also one of Laura’s most treasured friends.
“She was the most loyal, the most trustworthy, and the best friend that anybody could ever have,” said Inspector General Beemer.
Both served in supervisory roles in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.
“Really one of the best litigators, Western Pennsylvania – probably the state – has ever seen,” said Inspector General Beemer.
One of Laura’s most notable cases, involved the prosecution of Penn State University officials who mishandled complaints about Jerry Sandusky.
“If you asked Laura, she would probably say it was any case where she was able to help a child,” said Inspector General Beemer.
Laura’s story is also one of giving.
“She was always the one that gave of herself all of the time and she was the one that projected strength through it all,” said Inspector General Beemer.
“She brought a lot of us a long way. Many years ago, it was kind of still at the point where what was the victim wearing, what did you do wrong, was the victim drinking, and Laura made us put all of that aside and focus on what really happened and how the victim really was assaulted and how wrong and unfair it was,” said Judge McDaniel.
When asked what legacy Laura is leaving behind, Judge McDaniel said, “She’s leaving behind many legacies. She was a great mom, a great family member, a great friend.”
“Protecting kids. Great Mom. Compassion,” said Inspector General Beemer. “She played a part in transforming the way Allegheny County deals with child victims and women who were abused.”
“So many more people now are coming forward with sexual assault allegations than ever before and it’s because of people like Laura Ditka, and specifically Laura Ditka that that’s true,” said Judge McDaniel.
Although her life was limited to 55 years, Laura’s legacy of helping others will carry on.