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The “badly decomposed” remains of an elderly missing woman, who vanished from her home last year, turned up at a dumping site near Verona, Pennsylvania on Sunday, police said.
A Plumb Borough police officer, who made the morbid discovery on April 19, first noticed a foot sticking out of a garbage bag while on routine patrol over the weekend.
“He observed what looked like a shoe in the small tear of a garbage bag,” Lieutenant Venerando Costa of the Allegheny County Police Department told Oxygen.com. “He examined the bag a little bit further and saw what were human remains.”
The remains were later identified as belonging to Elizabeth Wiesenfeld, who was first reported missing on April 30, 2019.
Douglas Berry, a felon and suspected drug addict, was previously charged in the 67-year-old woman’s killing, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com. He was arraigned on murder charges in January, despite authorities not having then located a body.
“It gives the family closure… they can proceed with making arrangements like any family would do when they lose a loved one,” Costa added.
In late 2019, prosecutors also appeared to be losing hope that Wiesenfeld’s body would be recovered.
"The chances we are going to find her at this point are not good,” District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said in September, the Pittsburgh Gazette reported.
Wiesenfeld’s family made emotional pleas to her suspected killer to reveal the body’s whereabouts, too.
“I'm just praying he'll tell where she is,” Linda Valladares, the woman’s sister, said. “Please, let the devil tell where she is so we can have a funeral and say goodbye in the proper way.”
Wiesenfeld was first reported missing after she failed to show up for work at an adult daycare center nearly a year ago, according to the criminal complaint. There were no signs of forced entry at her home. Her designer purse was missing and cigarette ashes were found next to her bed, although she didn’t smoke, the woman’s family said. Wiesenfeld's Toyota Camry was in the garage and it didn't appear as if she had packed any bags.
Berry, a handyman, was reportedly involved in property dealings with Wiesenfeld, according to the criminal complaint. One witness told detectives that she had recently confided in her, claiming she was “afraid” of Berry and that he was on drugs.
Cell phone tower data and video surveillance footage, which captured Berry’s truck at Wiesenfeld’s home the morning she vanished, linked him to her disappearance. Wiesenfeld’s partially “melted and burned” bank card was also found in a Miller Lite beer can at Berry’s home. He allegedly used it to withdraw $500 hours after she went missing, according to investigators.
Berry was arrested on gun charges after police questioned him in Wiesenfeld’s disappearance. He later bragged to fellow prisoners about the killing, telling one inmate he needed to “move a body,” the criminal complaint alleged.
He allegedly claimed the corpse was contained “inside numerous layers of bags” a 30-minute drive away. Wiesenfeld’s body was found about 16 miles northeast of the Pittsburgh jail where he was incarcerated — approximately the same duration Berry described.
He insisted Wiesenfeld owed him money and spoke of dissolving bodies in sulfuric acid, detectives said.
“‘[T]he bitch had it coming,’” he allegedly told a jailhouse witness.
Wiesenfeld’s exact cause of death is unknown. An autopsy is pending, investigators said.
Berry is also charged with burglary, access device fraud, and several counts of theft and receiving stolen property.
The 48-year-old’s arrest record stretches back to the early '90s. He’s racked up a number of guilty verdicts on past assault, drunk driving, robbery, drug paraphernalia, forgery, theft, and trespass charges, court records show. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to flight to avoid prosecution.
Berry is being held without bond. He’s currently awaiting a jury trial, according to court records.
Heath Edward Leff, Berry’s public defender, wasn't immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
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