Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:57AM - 2172 Views

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Pauline Bailey knows what it's like to wait for justice.


Her daughter, Phylicia Thomas, disappeared from a Lake Township home on Feb. 11, 2004. Bailey has accepted her daughter is dead, believing she was killed.


Although Thomas' body has never been recovered, state police at Wyoming are treating her disappearance as an equivocal death. State police Lt. Richard Krawetz, criminal section commander for Troop P, said evidence gathered in the Thomas investigation strongly indicates she was the victim of foul play.


Thomas is one of 13 unsolved homicides in Luzerne County since 2003.


During the last 10 years, there have been 81 homicides that have resulted in arrests, 15 fatal motor vehicle crashes and six murder/suicides.


Each unsolved case investigated by state police is reviewed during the year when tips are received and new information is learned, Krawetz said. They are worked on as information comes in, he said. If warranted, we resubmit evidence to the (crime) lab for additional testing when feasible. Advances in DNA technology has really helped.


State police troopers are assigned a criminal investigation assessment officer, who reviews and reopens unsolved cases.


Investigators at the Wyoming barracks have four unsolved cases in four municipalities since 2003, Hazleton police have five unsolved homicides and Wilkes-Barre police have four open cases.


Last seen in 2004

Thomas was last seen at her residence a few days before Valentine's Day 2004.


Since then, Bailey has been on a crusade to find those responsible and, most important, find her daughter's body. She begged investigators to use canines to search a barn in the Sweet Valley area and recently Beaver Pond in Fairmount Township near Ricketts Glen State Park.


A woman approached Bailey inside a Nanticoke bar last summer and told her to search Beaver Pond, she said. It was the third time Bailey said that Beaver Pond has been mentioned to her by Thomas' acquaintances during 2012.


She believes Thomas was with as many as eight people the night she disappeared.


Shortly after Thomas was reported missing, investigators focused on Steven Martin, whose Ross Township house and ATV were searched for evidence. Martin pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection to a fatal crash in Wilkes-Barre, and took his own life in state prison in August 2005.


Bailey has held candlelight vigils every year in memory of Thomas.


Aaron Baxter

Aaron Baxter, 23, of Philadelphia, nicknamed Rockstar, was shot and killed during a drug sale inside Building 332 at the Sherman Hills apartment complex on June 19, 2008, according to Wilkes-Barre police. Two men wearing masks were seen running from the building.


Details about the Baxter killing were released when authorities conducted a large-scale drug sweep involving gang members belonging to the Long Island Boys, based in New York, in October 2008. The gang members were peddling 3,000 to 5,000 heroin packets a week in Sherman Hills, authorities said.


Arrest records in the drug sweep state: Baxter was known to police as having a history of arrests for drug sales. Interviews by police in relation to the shooting led police to believe the motive for the murder was that Baxter was competing for drug sales with a rival group of drug dealers from New York, specifically in and around the Long Island area.


Jonathan Balester

Jonathan Balester, 56, of North Lehigh Street, Kingston Township, was a well-known businessman who taught Bible studies at Luzerne County Correctional Facility. He was described as a caring person who opened an apartment above a detached garage at his home for those needing a place to stay.


Balester was found dead inside his house on May 26, 2011. He had been stabbed multiple times.


A search warrant affidavit says township police made a welfare check at Balester's house about three hours before family members found his body. His family became concerned when he missed a meeting at the family-owned business, Balester Optical, in Wilkes-Barre.


Other unsolved homicides in Luzerne County since 2003:



Jan. 15, 2003: George McMullins, 29, was found critically injured from gunshot wounds in a fourth floor hallway at 264 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. An anonymous caller from a pay phone on South Pennsylvania Avenue led police to McMullins, who later died at Mercy Hospital, Wilkes-Barre.



March 28, 2003: Roberta Widder, 43, was found dead from multiple stab wounds inside 65 Mechanics Lane, Plymouth. Widder lived by herself and, authorities said, often argued with a man who sometimes lived with her.



Jan. 31, 2006: Patricia Moreton, 35, was found dead inside 340 Hazle Ave., Wilkes-Barre, from a gunshot wound to her head. Her family has held candlelight vigils every year since her homicide.



Feb. 3, 2009: Mark Eastmond, 44, known as Mike Santiago, was found beaten to death inside a third-floor apartment at 456 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. Eastmond often visited Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.



May 14, 2009: Catherine Moore, 58, was found critically injured in her North Church Street home in Hazleton. Investigators believe she was thrown down stairs. Cellphone records were subpoenaed for a relative.



Feb. 13, 2010: Lorenzo Soriano, 19, was shot outside a McKinley Street apartment building in Hazleton, where a party was being held. Police identified a possible gunman in a search warrant affidavit, but have not made any arrest.



Sept. 11, 2010: Joseph Pawlowski, 48, was found fatally shot inside his home on Putnam Street, Hazleton. Police found the body after neighbors became concerned they had not seen Pawlowski in several days.



Sept. 1, 2012: Erick Gwaltney, 34, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds at Fourth and Alter streets, Hazleton. Police said they are looking for a Hispanic man known as Ricardo or Richard in connection with the deadly shooting.



Nov. 9, 2012: Leslie Smith, 27, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds inside a vehicle that crashed into a light pole near the Red Roof Inn, Plains Township. Drugs were found inside the vehicle, according to a search warrant.



Dec. 18, 2012: Maria Brea, 32, was found strangled to death inside an apartment on East Diamond Avenue, Hazleton. Her family reported her missing on Dec. 15. Police are searching for her former boyfriend, Oscar Lozano Garcia, for questioning.


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