Ex-Girlfirend Charged in Mark Werkheiser Homicide
Police have arrested Elizabeth Collazo for the homicide of Mark W. Werkheiser, her ex-boyfriend who was shot to death two weeks ago.
Before he died, Williams Township's Mark Werkheiser was involved in a custody battle with his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth "Lily" Collazo, the mother of his four kids.
In the years they were together, there were accusations of violence on both sides, and protection from abuse orders.
Yet nothing in their history justified Werkheiser's eventual fate, prosecutors said Tuesday, the day Collazo was charged with Werkheiser's murder.
According to police, Collazo let herself into Werkheiser's home, and shot him six times with his own gun while he slept, with a gun she'd apparently brought to a local Wal-Mart the day before to learn how to load.
"This was a cold, pre-meditated, planned act," said First Deputy Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck, during a news confernece announcing Collazo's arrest.
Collazo, 42, of 151 W. Nesquehoning St. in Easton, was taken into custody without incident Tuesday morning at a city motel. District Attorney John Morganelli said the case will be prosecuted as a first degree murder, although it's too soon to say whether he'll seek the death penalty.
Werkheiser, 38, was found dead in his home on Browns Drive on the morning of March 15. That day, the couple was to appear in court for a custody hearing for their children, twin girls and two sons.
"One of his four children came upon Mr. Werkheiser, unfortunately," Houck said. "There were two children sound asleep in this house" when the killing happened, he added.
Houck dismissed suggestions that the couple's custody dispute led to Werkheiser's death.
"There was no reason for this. None whatsoever," he said.
Court records show that both Werkheiser and Collazo had filed protection from abuse orders
Heidi Markhow, founder of the anti-domestic violence Beginning Over Foundation, said that it's common that people "cross-file" in this sort of relationship.
"One should not take that to heart," she said. It doesn't mean that both parties were abusive.
Markhow, who has been working with the family since Werkheiser's death, said she was relieved Collazo was in custody.
Some of Werksheiser's family members attended the news conference, huddled together for support. They chose not to speak to reporters, other than to clarify that Collazo was not Werkheiser's ex-wife, as previous stories had reported.
According to court records, one of the girls told police she heard footsteps in the house around 4 a.m., and assumed it was her father "either going to the bathroom or getting a drink." Around 6:50 a.m., one of the girls went to wake Werkheiser, and found him dead.
The girls told police their brothers, ages 10 and 13, had stayed with their mother the night before. Police eventually located the boys in Suffolk County, NY, where Collazo's sister lives.
On the day before Werkheiser died, police say Collazo had brought a .40 caliber handgun to the Lower Nazareth Wal-Mart where she works, and asked a co-worker how to load the gun. The co-worker showed her, but told her she couldn't have the gun in the store.
Police also spoke to a friend of Collazo, who said that on the day of the shooting, she found an envelope on her windshield.
Inside were two keys, with a note on the envelope apparently from Collazo:
"Please get all my things out of Apt. ASAP, sell bags, closet are full of them. Please make sure everybody get there [sic] notes, Forever Friends until we meet again."
A half hour later, the woman got a call from Collazo, who told her she had shot and killed Werkheiser.
"There's lots of people who go through custody matters," said Morganelli. Some of them are acrimonious. "But that does not lead them to murder. This was driven by hatred, an ill will."
Colazzo was in Northampton County Prison Tuesday, after being arraigned before District Judge Richard Yetter in Wilson. She is charged with criminal homicide, burglary -- and because she's accused of taking Werkheiser's gun -- theft.
The arrest came just hours after hundreds of people gathered at Wilson Area High School's auditorium to remember Werkheiser.
"We've lost the life of a good person here," Morganelli said. "The good news is that justice is going to happen here."