NANTICOKE — The body of a 97-year-old woman was found Friday inside her East Grand Street home where she lived for decades. Authorities are treating her death as a homicide.
Police Chief William Shultz called the investigation “a major case” with the state police at Wyoming, Luzerne County Detectives and Coroner’s Office involved.
Authorities identified the woman as Gertrude Price, who lived alone.
Trooper Martin Connors said Price was last seen at about 10:20 p.m. Thursday and neighbors reported seeing lights on inside her house at about 11 p.m., which neighbors said was “unusual” for that time of night.
County Coroner William Lisman said he is treating the woman’s death as an “open homicide.” An autopsy is scheduled today by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
Law enforcement sources say Price was beaten to death and it was a “complex scene” inside and outside the house. Connors said the interior of the house was ransacked, describing it as a “robbery turned homicide.”
“I hope they catch the son of a ——- who did this to her,” said Harry Mazucka, of Nanticoke. “She didn’t bother anybody and certainly didn’t deserve this. Something like this doesn’t happen here.”
The discovery of Price’s body was made at about 11 a.m. by a family member who went to the house when a phone call went unanswered.
Investigators put up yellow police tape directly in front of the house and expanded the crime scene closing the block of East Grand Street between Prospect and South Market streets. An alley behind Price’s house was also closed as investigators searched the rear yard.
Investigators concentrated on a specific area of the house where a small basement window appeared open.
A trooper with the forensic services unit took pictures and video of the window and inside the house.
Lisman removed the body from the house at about 2:30 p.m. after the scene was processed by the state police forensic services unit.
Within the first hour after Price’s body was found, the number of investigators quickly grew to include state police Lt. Richard Krawetz, commander of the criminal investigations unit; Cpl. Steve Turinski, criminal unit supervisor; Trooper Stephen Polishan of the criminal investigations unit and other troopers.
“This is unbelievable and to think it’s right here in Nanticoke,” said Gary Urbanski, of Nanticoke. “We’ve had nuisance troubles here with drugs and that bar (Prospect Street Cafe) that closed down a few months ago, but not something like this.”
The woman’s death is the second police-related incident in the neighborhood.
A white man in his 50s or 60s about 5 feet 10 inches tall assaulted another person at about 10 a.m. Thursday at Prospect and East Grand streets, about 70 yards from where Price lived. The assailant punched the victim in the face and stole a wallet after asking the victim for a cigarette, Nanticoke police said.