It was 3am when my phone rang. My deputy called to report a slashing in a backyard of West Hanover Township, a peaceful, suburban area, west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—a place people go to experience a little bit of country. The fact that there was a murder there seemed highly unusual.
The victim, Darlene Ewalt, was a 42-year-old female who had been sitting on her back patio, having a conversation with a man on the phone, around 2am. Suddenly, she cried out, “Oh my God!” The man on the line heard the phone drop and then silence. It was so sudden and her voice was so filled with horror, that he immediately called 911. Police were dispatched for a welfare check. Her husband, who didn’t know exactly where his wife was in the house, allowed police full access to the home for a search. The police found her dead body in the back patio.
When I arrived, I found her slumped over in a chair. An incandescent patio light shined an eerie a spotlight on the gruesome scene. Her left leg was sprawled out and her right leg bent. In front of her on top the white patio table was a notebook and a full ashtray. I could see that the attack had been swift, purposeful and skilled. I sensed that the stealthy killer had come out of the darkness of the backyard, and not from inside the home.
To learn more about the terms and practices of a medical legal investigator, watch “The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead” Mondays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery. Go to Graham Hetrick’s official website to learn other forensic terms.
Main photo via Investigation Discovery