Investigation: Woman killed after agreeing to meet about online purchase

·4 min read

Apr. 8—Police say a Geistown man admitted to stabbing a local woman to death inside his apartment, blaming an argument over the price of a refrigerator for the sparking the clash.

Denise Williams, 54, of Hornerstown, was stabbed multiple times with a knife — despite efforts to protect herself from the attack — after agreeing on social media to buy the fridge at his apartment, County Coroner Jeff Lees said.

"She put up one heck of a fight ... to defend herself," Lees said. "But this was a violent death she sustained."

The man accused of taking her life, 26-year-old Joshua Gorgone, apparently left Williams to die in his Old Scalp Avenue apartment but was arrested Tuesday afternoon by police in a Richland Township shopping center parking lot.

Vehicle 'ended up' elsewhere

There are indications an effort may have been made to misdirect authorities.

In the hours following her fatal attack, her Chevy sport utility vehicle was found four blocks away from the crime scene and her cell phone was located eight miles away on Sheridan Street in Johnstown.

Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer said investigators believe Williams drove to Gorgone's apartment on Monday, and her vehicle and the phone "ended up" in the other locations after she died.

Fresh blood was found on the driver's side door and a small bag of possible cocaine was left in the center console, police wrote in a criminal complaint.

Criminal homicide charges and two counts of aggravated assault have already been filed against Gorgone, and additional charges could follow as the investigation progresses, Neugebauer said

Gorgone is being held without bond because criminal homicide is a nonbailable offense in Pennsylvania.

"There is no further risk to the public," Neugebauer said.

Tragic ties

Gorgone now awaits a preliminary hearing before District Judge Susan Gindlesperger.

Neugebauer said it was too soon to speculate what prompted the attack and, at this point, it isn't believed the pair knew one another before arranging to meet through Facebook Marketplace — an online garage sale within the social media page where people can buy, sell and trade goods.

He said police located the online ad Gorgone posted about the fridge.

Williams was looking to buy the fridge as a gift for her boyfriend, Neugebauer added.

Williams is the sister of Robert "Bobby" Williams Jr., who was shot and killed inside his Richland home in 2013, moments after two men forced their way into his home, according to authorities.

Despite reward offers, that case remains unsolved — but Neugebauer said there are no indications that the cases are related.

He described Tuesday's homicide as a "horrible, gut-wrenching coincidence."

Williams was a Conemaugh Health System employee who worked in the nursing field, Lees said.

The mother of two children, Williams was remembered as "charismatic," loving and always willing to do whatever it took to help someone she loved, family wrote in a page established in her memory Tuesday.

"There is never a challenge she would back down from, and when it came to her family, there were no lengths she wasn't willing to go," Debby Hannah wrote in her tribute.

Neugebauer said Williams' family is going through an "unimaginably difficult" time — and deserves gratitude for playing a "crucial" role in helping investigators track down her assailant.

When they couldn't reach Williams on Tuesday, family members recognized that something wasn't right and didn't hesitate to call police, he said.

They were also aggressive in tracking information down about her whereabouts, providing police with a Facebook post that led investigators to the crime scene, Neugebauer added.

"They deserve all of our thanks," he said.

Lees said Williams was found inside the apartment's bathroom. The massive amount of blood she lost from the stabbings caused her death, he said.

Neugebauer indicated several knives were seized as evidence from the scene.

He said it was too soon to speculate whether more than one knife was used and declined to elaborate on the style of knife.

Neugebauer said investigators are seeking subpoenas for additional information, including digital sources, that could provide further evidence in the case.

Geistown police are leading the investigation, which remains ongoing, Chief Nick Zakucia said. A state police records and identification unit, Richland Township police and the coroners office are all assisting Geistown.

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