"The past is an unsolved mystery and the truth a moving target."
It was the 13th of May 2018. Mother's Day. Rachael DelTondo lived in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, United States with her parents Lisa and Joe. The thirty three year old was getting her life back together after a difficult few years.
Her difficulties began when her relationship ended with her fiancee Frank Catroppa. Frank, dubbed the "The Wolf of Aliquippa" due to his ambition, work and wealth, ended their relationship. They had known each other since they were children and after five years of dating, Frank proposed in Paris. It was a magical time for Rachael. All she wanted was for Frank to commit to her and to have children. The engagement lasted six months. Things began to go bad during the planning of their wedding.
Frank and Rachael
At first, Frank was very hands on. He wanted to select the Church, flowers, cake and organise everything. Lisa bought Rachael her Wedding dress and shoes and they were all very excited for the big day to arrive. That all changed when Frank asked Rachael to sign a prenuptial agreement. Rachael agreed. She didn't want Frank to think she just wanted his money but her parents were not so sure. Lisa didn't want her to sign it. Marriage was supposed to be for life.
When the relationship ended, they still saw each other on and off. Rachael was a teacher and was popular and well liked in the area. But things changed following Super Bowl weekend in 2016 and life for Rachael was never the same again.
That weekend Rachael met with a former student of hers, seventeen year old Aliquippa high school football star named Sheldon Jeter. Rachael told one of her friends, Jen Glovan, that he reached out to her via Facebook and they met around 11pm in the Circle K car park. Sheldon needed some help. When they were in the car, a police officer knocked on the window. She was upset as she told Jen about it but told her she was just helping him and nothing had happened. A year later, her relationship with Jen broke down and Jen told Frank about it. Frank had been considering getting back with Rachael.
Frank went to the Aliquippa Police Department and asked Assistant Police Chief Joe Perciavalle if there was an incident report. There was but it had only been written a year after the incident. Frank read the report. The report was not what he expected. It appeared to him that there was some sort of relationship between Rachael and Sheldon. They were not in a car park at the time but an abandoned lot and the passenger seat was fully reclined. According to the report, the time was 2am and not 11pm as Rachael had said.
Frank was given a copy of the report along with a folder which contained sensitive information about Rachael such as her Social Security and driver's license numbers. All of this information was anonymously emailed to Rachael's school where she worked, the school board, media, the mayor and Rachael's friends.
Just one day after the report was released, Rachael was suspended. She spent a few days in a psych ward and was deeply distressed by the incident.
Rachael and Frank
By December 2017, Rachael had no job and felt that she had been abandoned and felt deeply embarrassed. She no longer spoke to Frank and many of her friends and people in the area did not spend time with her.
In the months that followed though, Rachael focused on getting her life back together and it was working. By the spring of 2018, Rachael was dating thirty one year old Rashawn Bolton. Rashawn was Sheldon's older brother. He made her feel safe and secure. By the time Mother's Day came around, the 13th of May 2018, Rachael felt happy. That evening Rashawn was out of town and Rachael had dinner at home. Afterwards, Rachael went out for some ice cream with friends. She got a lift home. Lauren Watkins dropped her off at her home. It was around 10.45pm at the time. Up until that point, everything seemed normal. After Rachael got out of the car and was at the end of her driveway, she was shot several times at close range.
The investigation into Rachael's murder has fuelled many conspiracy theories.
Frank was one of the first people questioned by police. He denied any involvement in her murder. According to Frank, he was with his mother at the time of the murder. Police also spoke with Sheldon. Through his attorney Michael Santicola, Sheldon says that Rachael was never his teacher but he said that their relationship was much more than a friendship. He denied any involvement in her murder.
Lisa and Joe
Lisa believes that Sheldon was obsessed with her daughter. She also said that Rachael told her that she was cooperating in an ongoing investigation by state police, into alleged corruption in the Aliquippa Police Department. Due to that, she had received death threats and was frightened to talk. She believed there was somebody following her. Former assistant chief of police for the Aliquippa Police Department, Joe Perciavalle ,was asked by 48 Hours if he thought the police department was involved in Rachael’s death. His reply was surprising:
“You just never know,Aliquippa is a small community with New York problems.”
To date, no arrests have been made. When 48 Hours aired on TV about the murder, less than 24 hours later, Sheldon was found unconscious on the street. Police were investigating it as a drug overdose but Sheldon, through his lawyer, claimed that he drank too much that night. The investigation into Rachael's murder is ongoing. Due to the actual method of murder, shot multiple times at close range, this was clearly a deeply personal hit on a woman who was getting her life back on track. There are no doubt secrets in this case that will one day reveal exactly what happened to Rachael that night.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
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