When the mourners arrived for their vigil Monday, a Bethlehem police crime scene van was still parked outside Trisha Sadler's house and yellow police tape was stretched around the yard. The thudding of a nail gun came from inside as some city workers finished putting up plywood to cover windows shattered in Friday's long standoff.
Along the rest of Cloverdale Road, the sun sparkled off cans and bottles in the curbside recycling bins, a mail carrier made his rounds and a chorus of birdsong filtered out of the treetops.
That's how such neighborhoods function normally, in a placid rhythm that people take for granted until it is torn apart by horrors of the sort that unfolded Friday. Then they shudder and say they never expected such a terrible thing to happen in such a quiet place.
Often, they draw analogies to television, where unspeakable violence is frequently the heart of drama. A man named Donald Barkey did just that, wandering over from his bright yellow house to recount how police officers with rifles had spent hours on his lawn and porch, virtually motionless as the drama unfolded a few doors over.
"It was like an episode of
" he said, naming a program better known for its grisly focus on forensics than for standoffs and shootouts.
Even so, his point was well taken. Friday's events had the quality of a televised nightmare, with the five-hour standoff ending in a fog of tear gas and a discovery that ranged far beyond grisly: police said Sadler, 29, a quiet but feisty bank employee, had been stabbed and dismembered by live-in boyfriend William J. Ward, 45.
Scores of Sadler's colleagues and former colleagues from
Bank gathered in front of her bungalow around noon to lay flowers and candles at a growing memorial at the curb. They formed a circle and joined hands.
"We're asking you to just have grace and mercy on Trisha's soul and work on her family's hearts to lessen their burden," Joedy Ransom of
Earlier, Ransom had called Sadler "a little spitfire."
"She was one of the happier faces," she said, remembering their days together at the Wells Fargo call center in Bethlehem. Many of the mourners had been laid off from the center at the end of March. They recalled how relieved Sadler was to find a job at one of the bank's Bethlehem branches, because she had just bought the house.
A few in the crowd made oblique references to the suspect — "Behind a smile, how evil you can be," Shantia Perez said — but mostly they talked about Sadler as they remembered her from better times.
Indeed, the conversation quickly turned to that staple of memorials and wakes, the affectionate imitation of the departed.
"Sir, sir, will you please let me speak, sir?" one woman said, remembering Sadler's quiet but determined approach to belligerent customers.
Had Sadler been in an abusive relationship? Friends cited in a police arrest affidavit said it appeared so. Indeed, Sadler reportedly told one colleague to call the police if she didn't come to work because, she said, Ward had threatened to kill her.
But colleagues interviewed at the vigil said they couldn't imagine the tough young woman they knew had willingly endured abuse.
"I remember one time someone wasn't pleasant to me and she said 'I wouldn't have taken that,' " said Rose Ryba, a friend from Bethlehem. "She spoke up for herself. … My brain can't digest that she would have lived in that kind of environment."
Said Paula Araujo of
, another friend and former colleague: "She would have fought back with everything she had."
Whatever the case, the story is another in a stunning string of domestic tragedies in the Lehigh Valley. Just shy of a year ago, Michael Ballard fatally stabbed his girlfriend, her father and grandfather and a good Samaritan neighbor in Northampton. He has been sentenced to death.
In March, police charged veterinarian David Rapoport of
County with killing his pregnant lover, Jennifer Snyder, in North
Township. And in May, Marjorie Reyes was shot and killed in her Bethlehem home. Police charged her live-in boyfriend, Luis Montero, 41.
John Toner, director of development at the women's shelter
of the Lehigh Valley, called it the "most violent and deadly time I can remember for domestic violence murders" in an email urging support for his own and other domestic violence agencies.