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A Pennsylvania mother and nurse was allegedly stabbed to death by a man selling a refrigerator on Facebook Marketplace this week after the two got into an argument over the price of the appliance.
Joshua Gorgone, 26, confessed to the “brutal” stabbing of Denise Williams after a dispute over the cost of a refrigerator, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
On April 5, the 54-year-old woman vanished after she drove to Gorgone’s apartment to view the fridge, which was meant to be a gift for her boyfriend, officials said. They'd met and communicated on Facebook Marketplace to arrange the sale.
Williams’ family filed a missing person report on Monday evening when she didn’t pick up several phone calls after having left work hours earlier.
Around 9 p.m., the nurse’s phone was tracked to an unspecified area in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; her Chevrolet Trax later turned up in Richland Township, about eight miles away. Detectives found “fresh blood” on the vehicle’s doors and ice cubes were sprinkled across the vehicle’s floorboard. Police also found a small baggie of suspected cocaine and an ATM withdrawal receipt for $160 from a Johnstown bank from earlier that afternoon. The SUV's key wasn't located.
Authorities ultimately discovered Williams had planned to meet up with Gorgone on Monday to buy a refrigerator. Her body was later found on the bathroom floor inside his apartment. Under questioning, Gorgone allegedly told to detectives the sale went south, then ultimately spiraled into a “physical altercation.” He later confessed to stabbing a kitchen knife into Williams’ chest several times.
Gorgone then apparently dumped her vehicle in Richland Township. Prosecutors suspect the drugs seized from Williams’ Chevrolet also belong to him.
“We do believe at some point the defendant did move her vehicle and we believe it was after she would have passed away,” Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer told Oxygen.com. “We do not believe the drugs located in the car were hers.”
Williams’ death was ruled a homicide. She died from exsanguination, or massive blood loss, due to multiple stab wounds, according to a preliminary autopsy; she also had numerous defensive injuries on her hands, palms, and forearms.
“She was taken away from her family at the snap of a finger,” Cambria County Coroner Jeff Lees told Oxygen.com. “There were obvious signs of a struggle. She did put up one heck of a fight. This was a very brutal scene — it was a violent death.”
Lees knows Williams’ family personally, he said. In the 1990s, the county coroner worked with Williams at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Lee Campus. They often cared for terminal cancer patients in the same oncology unit, he said.
“Denise and I worked side by side hundreds of times taking care of sick, sick patients, helping families cope, trying to make it a little bit easier, trying to comfort the patient,” he explained.
Williams worked at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center until her death. Lees described her as an “upbeat,” “caring,” and “compassionate” medical professional.
“On the busiest days, she’d always make you laugh,” Lees recalled. “It’s going to be a huge loss.”
The 51-year-old coroner was taken aback when he learned he'd been tasked with conducting a post-mortem examination on his former colleague.
“You need to put those feelings aside,” Lees said. “I don’t have an easy job, to begin with...it does give me many sleepless nights from time to time — it’s not a pleasant job, it’s not a job many people want. We are front and center of seeing pain and sorrow. It does become a little bit emotional, a little bit challenging when I have to perform my duties when you’re dealing with people that you know.”
Lees said he conducted the solemn duty laser-focused on delivering justice — and perhaps some closure — to Williams’ family.
“It’s my job to speak for her — and I’m honored to speak for her,” Lees said. “It’s my job as the coroner to speak for that individual that is deceased and also to represent their family in getting answers, and working with law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, to bring justice to those who are responsible for a person’s passing.”
County officials also warned the public to be vigilant when selling and purchasing items on social media.
“No good deal is worth losing your life over,” Neugebauer added. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with on the other side.”
The Cambria County District Attorney cautioned against meeting up with Facebook Marketplace sellers alone or inviting buyers into your home.
“You should never meet up with a stranger by yourself,” he added. “You should let your family know where you’re going. Bring a family member or a friend. And if you’re on the selling side of things, you shouldn’t invite a stranger into your home..meet in a public place that is well-lit, hopefully under surveillance, and would have people around.”
Gorgone was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to jail records. He’s being held without bail at Cambria County Prison. Gorgone's next court appearance is scheduled for April 14, court documents show. It's unclear if he's retained legal representation.
Geistown Borough Police weren’t immediately available to comment on the case on Thursday.
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