While Mark Werkheiser slept in the early morning hours of March 15, prosecutors say, his estranged partner used her keys to get into his Williams Township home, armed with a handgun she had stolen from him.
She'd used the keys before to sneak into the home she once shared with Werkheiser and their four children, officials say. As the couple's twin 16-year-old daughters slept downstairs, police say, Elizabeth Collazo shot Werkheiser six times as he lay in bed and then fled to New York with their two sons.
When one of the girls awoke shortly before 7 a.m. and went to get her father for a ride to school, she found his body and called 911,
District Attorney John Morganelli said at a Tuesday news conference announcing homicide charges against Collazo.
Morganelli said he'll prosecute the killing as a first-degree murder case, saying investigators have evidence that Collazo had planned the killing and had asked a friend to show her how to load Werkheiser's .40-caliber handgun.
"This lady was driven by a hatred, an ill will," Morganelli said. "This was not a spur of moment act."
Police said an unnamed acquaintance of Collazo's — only referred to in court records as A.R. — told investigators that Collazo had twice admitted to killing Werkheiser, 38, in his home at 850 Browns Drive.
First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck declined to comment on a motive, saying those details will come out later. The day of the killing, the couple were scheduled to be in court for a child custody hearing.
Prosecutors said they haven't yet decided if they'll seek the death penalty.
"There was no reason, no justification for this killing," Houck said. "This was a cold-blooded, premeditated, planned act."
Collazo, 42, of 151 W. Nesquehoning St. in
, was arrested around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at a city hotel where police learned she had spent the night, and was arraigned hours later. Police would not say if Collazo had cooperated with investigators or where she was before her arrest in Easton. Collazo remains in Northampton County Prison with no bail.
Some of Werkheiser's family members and friends attended the news conference at Morganelli's office. As investigators answered questions about the case, they sobbed and hugged each other. After the conference, they declined to comment.
Werkheiser had primary custody of their four children. Judge Stephen Baratta granted Werkheiser's sister and brother-in-law custody the day of the killing, citing "the criminal circumstances surrounding father's death and mother's failure to appear at today's conference."
Court records show the custody dispute included allegations of abuse, and Werkheiser and Collazo last year obtained protection-from-abuse orders against one another.
"This was a nice, young fellow who tried to do the best he could with the children under difficult circumstances," Morganelli said. "The good news is we will make sure justice happens in this case."
According to court records:
The day before the killing, Collazo visited a co-worker at the
Township. Thomas Kale told police he had worked for seven years with Collazo, who came to the store around 3 p.m., said she had bought a gun and pulled it from her purse.
She asked if he knew what kind it was, and Kale told her it was a .40-caliber and said it looked brand new. He took out the magazine and saw it was empty.
Collazo, who is also known as "Lily," pulled four bullets from her purse and asked Kale to load the gun for her. He put the rounds in the magazine, but told Collazo she could not have the weapon in the store. Collazo returned the gun and magazine to her purse and left.
Police said they have not found the gun used to kill Werkheiser. They said they found a casing in an empty box for a .40-caliber handgun, which was in a safe in the master bedroom. They said the casing had been placed in the box by the manufacturer, and a ballistics expert said that casing and those found near Werkheiser's body were fired from the same gun.
Werkheiser kept a .40-caliber handgun in the trunk of his car, authorities said, adding that family members believe Collazo stole a key to the car from Werkheiser.
The court documents also say that on the night before the killing, the couple's sons watched a movie and fell asleep at Collazo's city apartment.
One boy later told police that around 4 a.m. March 15, their mother woke the boys and said they were "leaving town." The boy said they went to Collazo's sister's home in Miller Place, N.Y.
Sometime that morning when a family member reached one of the couple's sons on his cellphone, the boy said he was with his mother but didn't know where they were. The call ended and the boy couldn't be reached again.
, N.Y., found Collazo's car parked in front of her sister's home. Police said they conducted surveillance and when Collazo tried to leave, police stopped her and took the boys into custody under an order issued by a
On March 20, a Pennsylvania trooper interviewed Collazo's friend, A.R. She told investigators that on the day of Werkheiser's killing, she was walking her dog around 4 a.m. and found an envelope on her windshield.
The envelope was from Collazo, police said, and included a key to her apartment. Collazo left a note asking the friend to get all of her things out of her apartment and to "sell bags, closet are full of them." She also wrote that she had left notes for family members.
"Please make sure everybody get there notes, Forever Friends, until we meet again," she wrote.
A.R. told police that later that morning, Collazo came to her home and "told her that Mark was dead" and Collazo had killed him.
Collazo is charged with homicide, burglary and theft.