The investigation of Rachael DelTondo’s murder continues to take stunning turn after stunning turn, while police still have not named a suspect or even an official person of interest.
DelTondo, 33, was gunned down in her family’s driveway in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, late on Mother’s Day, after returning from an outing for ice cream with two friends. One of those friends is the teenage daughter of an Aliquippa Police sergeant who has since been put on paid leave due to his connection to the investigation.
The other passenger in the car that dropped Rachael off that night, just minutes before witnesses heard gunshots, was Tyrie Jeter, who DelTondo had reportedly been dating. Tyrie is the older brother of Sheldon Jeter, who was found in a parked car with DelTondo, then a teacher, in February 2016, when he was 17. Police who discovered them in the car reportedly interviewed both the teacher and the teen boy, and both said that nothing untoward was going on — that they were just talking. DelTondo was not charged with any wrongdoing.
But late last year, a source from inside the Aliquippa Police Department allegedly leaked the incident report to the media, and DelTondo was suspended from her teaching position after local news site the Beaver Countian published a story based on the incident report. By that time, DelTondo had also broken her engagement to Frank Catroppa, a successful entrepreneur reportedly known as “The Wolf of Aliquippa.”
The Aliquippa Police Department has been the subject of a grand jury investigation into alleged corruption; though it is not known if DelTondo or the 2016 incident are in any way connected. However, since her murder, there has been upheaval within the department; with two members — including the police chief — placed on leave; and another charged with sending a “sexually explicit” image to a minor.
The bizarre twists and turns of the murder investigation have thrust the small Rust Belt town into the national spotlight, as Rachael’s mother Lisa DelTondo has publicly called for another agency to take over the murder investigation from the Aliquippa Police Department.
CrimeOnline spoke to Beaver Countian reporter John Paul, who has been closely covering DelTondo’s murder investigation and has regularly reported on corruption in the Pennsylvania county.
John Paul clarified earlier reports suggesting that DelTondo’s former fiancé’s alibi was shaky. As CrimeOnline previously reported, search warrants obtained by local news outlets showed that Catroppa said he was home at his apartment from early in the evening before the night DelTondo was killed until the next morning. But data from the building’s “key fob” did not record Catroppa entering the apartment at all on May 13.
The Beaver Countian reporter said that the wording of the warrant was somewhat misleading, and was widely interpreted to mean that Catroppa was not home when he said he was.
“The reality from my reporting is this: to get into his apartment, he actually uses a hard key and not a pass key,” John Paul said.
“The pass key is used to get into the apartment complex as a whole. So there wouldn’t be a record of that.”
And though there was no surveillance video showing Catroppa entering his apartment that night, “I’m told there is no surveillance camera that captures the door to his apartment,” John Paul said, explaining that there is a surveillance camera near Catroppa’s parking spot.
“What that shows is him arriving that night and leaving the next morning,” he said.
“And my understanding is that … investigators did meet with the fiancé and the management of the property at the actual apartment complex and are now satisfied with his alibi.”
John Paul also said that Catroppa lives a half hour drive from where DelTondo was murdered.
On Tuesday, the Beaver Countian and the Daily Mail published explosive joint reports about a mysterious letter that was sent to Wayne Cordes, a prisoner in Beaver County Jail, days after DelTondo’s murder.
According to the report, a friend of Cordes’ gave his ex-girlfriend Kayle Hill the letter while she was at work at a Circle K convenience store a few days after the murder.
“The friend came inside and gave me folded up paper and asked me if I could send it to Wayne, Hill told the Beaver Countian, and said that she did send the letter to Cordes.
The letter reportedly reads in part:
Cordes, who is in custody on charges of felony aggravated assault and burglary, told the Beaver Countian that detectives from the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office visited him in jail asking about the letter before he had told authorities about it. He said he did not know how they had learned of the letter.
“I was going to give them this letter when [the Beaver County detectives] came to see me but… I didn’t trust [them],” Cordes reportedly said, and denied any knowledge of the letter to the detectives.
The inmate’s mother told the newspaper that Wayne told her about the letter on May 25, and that she told Pennsylvania State Police about the letter the next day because she didn’t trust the Aliquippa Police Department or the Beaver County Sheriff.
Four days later, Beaver County detectives raided Wayne’s jail cell — but not before he sent half of the letter to his attorney, Gerald Benyo. The attorney told the Beaver Countian that he believed Beaver County authorities violated attorney-client privilege when they his client’s jail cell, because legal documents were also in the cell.
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Benyo declined to comment on the letter, claiming he was under a gag order.
“As of June 8 2018 I have been instructed by the court not to discuss issues which may relate to the DelTondo homicide investigation,” Benyo said.