Wrong guy? Mysterious witness letter could shift focus in Rachael DelTondo murder investigation

The convoluted murder investigation of a young teacher has taken yet another potentially dramatic turn, as a letter written by someone claiming to be a witness to the shooting purportedly takes the focus off a man widely believed to be a leading person of interest.

Police in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, have not named any suspects in the Mother’s Day murder of Rachael DelTondo, 33, who was shot in the driveway of her family home after returning from an outing for ice cream with two friends, one who is the 17-year-old daughter of Aliquippa Police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, who has been placed on paid leave due to his connection to the investigation.

Months before her killing, DelTondo had been suspended from her teaching position at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter school after a local news site, the Beaver Countian, published a story based on a leaked incident report from February 2016, when Aliquipppa police officers found DelTondo in a parked car with then 17-year-old Sheldon Jeter, Jr.

DelTondo and the minor both reportedly said they were only talking, and DelTondo was not charged with any wrongdoing.

In subsequent years, DelTondo and Sheldon Jeter maintained a friendship that may have been romantic at times. But at the time of her death, DelTondo was reportedly dating Sheldon’s older brother Tyrie, who was with her just before she was murdered, along with their 17-year-old friend. As CrimeOnline previously reported, Sheldon Jeter is believed to have been in contact with the group that night, and sent messages that indicate he may have felt excluded. 

Sheldon Jeter appears to have been a primary focus of the investigation. But a letter sent to an inmate at the Beaver County Jail, written by someone who claims to have witnessed the shooting, reportedly implicates someone else in the killing.

Jeter’s lawyer Mike Santicola told WPXI that the letter takes the focus off his client. CrimeOnline has received information that supports this claim, though the letter has not been authenticated.

A gag order has been placed on several people connected to the investigation, including the attorney of the Beaver County Jail inmate who received the letter. The inmate reportedly gave second half of the letter, revealing the signature of its sender, to his lawyer. Beaver County Sheriff detectives raided the jail cell on May 29, four days after the inmate’s mother reported the existence of the letter to Pennsylvania State Police.

Rachael’s mother Lisa DelTondo has publicly called for another agency to take over the investigation from the Aliquippa Police Department, but the department has thus far refused to hand over the reigns to the Pennsylvania State Police. Since DelTondo’s murder, the Aliquippa Police Chief has been placed on leave, and another member of the department charged with sending “sexually explicit” images to a minor –– the same teen girl who was with DelTondo the night she was killed.