The Express Times
Elizabeth "Lily" Collazo, 42, was charged this morning with killing the father of her four children, Mark Werkheiser, 38, of Williams Township, as he slept earlier this month.
Werkheiser was found by one of his 16-year-old daughters unresponsive about 7 a.m. March 15 in bed in his home at 850 Browns Drive, authorities said.
The daughter had entered his bedroom to wake him for a ride to school, officials said.
Werkheiser suffered six gunshot wounds to the neck and upper torso, investigators said. He was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. that day and the Northampton County Coroner's Office ruled the manner of death as homicide.
"He was defenseless," said Assistant District Attorney Terry Houck.
Collazo, of the 100 block of West Nesquehoning Street in Easton, was arrested without incident this morning by Pennsylvania State Police at the Quality Inn in the 100 block of South Third Street in Easton. She was arraigned just before 10 o'clock during a brief proceeding at District Judge Richard Yetter's court in Wilson Borough. She is charged with murder, burglary and theft.
Collazo was denied bail and sent to Northampton County Prison, according to court papers.
Police said they do not have any witnesses to the crime and have not located the murder weapon -- a 40-caliber handgun owned by Werkheiser -- but authorities say Collazo admitted to acquaintances that she shot Werkheiser.
"We are confident we have a very strong case of criminal homicide," District Attorney John Morganelli said at a news conference.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled 9 a.m. April 9 in front of District Judge Daniel Corpora in Easton, according to court papers.
Werkheiser was supposed to have a custody court hearing at 1 p.m. March 15. Collazo, who did not live with Werkheiser but had keys to his house, did not appear for that hearing and was identified later as a person of interest in the killing. The couple's four children are now being looked after by relatives, who have court-ordered custody.
Collazo, who never married Werkheiser and separated from him a year ago, took two of the children ages 10 and 13 to her sister's house in Miller Place, N.Y., after the killing, authorities said. Later in the day on March 15, as Collazo was trying to leave that house, local police picked up the two boys. Collazo was not arrested then.
At the news conference this morning, authorities said the Collazo case will be prosecuted as first-degree murder. It will be handled by Houck; prosecutors said they have not determined yet if they will seek the death penalty.
Collazo the day before the killing took the murder weapon to the WalMart on Route 248 in Lower Nazareth Township, where she worked, and asked co-worker Thomas Kale how to load the weapon, according to court papers. Kale, who told authorities he didn't know what Collazo planned to do with the weapon, loaded four 40-caliber Smith & Wesson rounds Collazo took out of her purse into the magazine, records say. He gave her the magazine and she put it and the handgun in her purse and left after he told her she could not have the gun in the store, records say.
Police said she let herself into the Werkheiser home using a pair of keys sometime between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. March 15. Their twin 16-year-old daughters were home at the time but slept through the gunshots, authorities said.
"She walked into the house in the middle of the night, went up to his bedroom and shot him six times while he was sleeping," Houck said of Collazo, calling the incident cold-blooded.
Houck downplayed the couple's rocky past, described in court records, as a reason for the homicide.
"There was no reason, no justifiable reason, for this murder," he said. "... What her reason was, I can't tell you."
Morganelli said the custody dispute shouldn't have led to shooting anyone.
"There are lots of people who go through custody matters and divorce cases, and there's lots of relationships that are acrimonious. They're not good relationships. But that does not lead them to murder," Morganelli said.
Friends and family members of Werkeiser, including his sister Rachelle Altemose, attended the news conference but declined to speak to reporters.
Court papers painted a detailed picture of circumstances surrounding Werkheiser's shooting.
According to court records:
Police received a call from 850 Browns Drive at 7:02 a.m. on March 15 reporting Werkheiser had been shot. In interviews with police, Werkheiser's two 16-year-old daughters said they returned home with their father at around midnight. One of the girls said she heard footsteps above her bedroom during the night and believed it was her father going to the bathroom or getting a drink. Neither girl reported having heard gunshots.
At 6:50 a.m., one of Werkheiser's daughters went to wake her father and saw he was unresponsive. Werkheiser's daughters related to police their two brothers, ages 10 and 13, were staying overnight with their mother at her apartment in Easton. Collazo always dropped the boys off at Werkheiser's house between 6:50 and 7 a.m. to catch the school bus, the girls said. Werkheiser's daughters expressed concern for their brothers' safety.
At 8:30 a.m., as police officers were talking with Werkheiser's family members, one of Werkheiser's sons called a family member to say he was in the car with Collazo and his brother. The boy said they were lost and he didn't know where they were, then hung up the phone. One of Werkheiser's daughters later sent a text to her brother to ask his whereabouts, and the boy said he and his mother and brother were headed to Collazo's sister's house in New York state. The house was later confirmed to be located in the hamlet of Miller Place, N.Y.
Police discovered Werkheiser owned two firearms. Family members said he kept one, a Springfield .40-caliber model, in the trunk of his black Lexus. The Lexus key was missing, and family members told police they believed Collazo stole the key.
After Collazo's and Werkheiser's sons were taken into custody, they told police Collazo had picked them up at 4 p.m. on March 14 and taken them to her apartment in the 100 block of West Nesquehoning Street. They said they fell asleep watching a movie at the apartment between 10:30 and 11 p.m. At 4 a.m. on March 15, Collazo awakened them to say they were leaving town. Prior to that, Collazo had not mentioned anything about traveling anywhere, the boys said. The boys confirmed Werkheiser had a black handgun he kept in his Lexus.
Police had found .40-caliber Smith and Wesson casings at Werkheiser's home following the killing. Upon executing a search warrant, police found an empty box in a safe in Werkheiser's bedroom for a Springfield .40-caliber handgun. Police found a shell casing that had been placed in the box. Ballistics tests showed the casing found in the box and those found at the scene of Werkheiser's death had been fired from the same gun.
On March 20, police interviewed a friend of Collazo's, identified in documents by the initials "AR." At 4 a.m. on March 15, AR was walking her dog when she saw a white slip of paper on her windshield, which contained two keys, she told police. Markings on the paper indicated it was from Collazo. An attached note read, "Please get all my things out of the apartment ASAP, sell bags, closets are full of them, Please make sure everybody get there (sic) notes, Forever friends until we meet again." AR reported Collazo had made three calls to her on March 15 starting at 4:30 a.m.
Collazo told her "Mark was dead" and admitted killing him by shooting him, according to the court records. At 6 a.m., Collazo walked into AR's house and again said Werkheiser was dead because she shot him.
Police said they seized two keys from Collazo, one of which granted access to Werkheiser's house, and the other to his Lexus.
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WILLIAMS TWP: Elizabeth "Lily" Collazo, 42, was charged this morning with killing the father of her four children
The Express Times