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After a year spent investigating Rachael DelTondo’s murder, veteran CBS News correspondent Erin Moriarty said one thing is clear to her: Citizens of Aliquippa and Beaver County need to start expecting more from their elected officials.
BeaverCountian.com worked in conjunction with Moriarty and a team of talented CBS News journalists out of New York City to produce an hour-long episode of “48 HOURS” focusing on DelTondo’s murder.
“There is reason why we are doing this story to begin with, and that is to show how important a functional police department and investigators are when you want to solve and prevent crime,” Moriarty told BeaverCountian.com on Tuesday, as the network was finalizing the episode.
“To me, this is a cautionary tale of what happens when you have problems within a department … Nobody knows who to trust, nobody knows what will happen next. These are unwelcome and unnecessary distractions when something like this happens.
“Let’s say you are a witness and you do know something. Who do you trust?”
DelTondo, 33, was gunned down in her parent’s Aliquippa driveway on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018. She had spoken with state investigators, and was also a confidential source for this site about alleged corruption in Aliquippa and elsewhere in Beaver County.
The next month, the city’s police chief was put on paid administrative leave and accused of being a subject of a state police investigation. Shortly afterward, the assistant police chief also was put on paid leave and charged by county detectives with seemingly unrelated crimes. The city’s third acting police chief recused the department from the investigation, and turned it over entirely to county detectives.
Another city officer was put on paid leave and later demoted after county District Attorney David Lozier said he wouldn’t prosecute any cases filed by the officer. And a statewide Grand Jury empaneled before the murder continued to hand out subpoenas in an investigation of city and county corruption.
Moriarty said CBS expanded the scope of its reporting to take a broader look at issues surrounding DelTondo’s murder.
“We are really pushing to get some answers, not just on Rachael’s death but the events that lead to her death. I think people will have a better idea of what happened, and then should start to expect more from the people they elect,” Moriarty said.
“They should demand the mayor, city council, and district attorney figure out a way to get an operating investigative system so people don’t have to be afraid of crime.
“People need to demand more from their public officials. I hope that is what they feel after they see our show … They should be angry.”
As part of its reporting, “48 HOURS” explored the October 2017 leak of confidential information from law enforcement databases about DelTondo that originated from the Aliquippa Police Department.
Included in the leak was a police report about officers finding DelTondo in a steamed-up car with 17-year-old Sheldon Jeter Jr. in February 2016.
DelTondo was never charged with a crime, but the report’s leak lead to her being suspended from her teaching job. She had not yet been reinstated before being murdered.
“Justice for Rachael DelTondo is not only finding her killer, but repairing her reputation; to get her good name back and to get her killer put away,” Moriarty said.
“It is clear to me that she died with her reputation damaged in a way it shouldn’t have been. No one brought charges against her, the investigation was over, and she was still suspended (from her job) … Rachael is a victim. Nobody should be shot down in front of her parents’ home on Mother’s Day.
“She’s a victim and she deserves justice. The idea that there is somebody who felt that he or she could get away with walking up to someone and shooting them multiple times and taking away their life; that person needs to be arrested and locked away.
“Those are my feelings of Rachael DelTondo. None of us have perfect lives, but nothing she did makes this murder acceptable. Nothing.”
Because no officials have been arrested to date on corruption related charges, Moriarty said it’s hard to know what is really taking place in Beaver County.
“I think there is certainly an appearance of corruption and that can be just as damaging as actual corruption. It is almost a cultural thing now (in Beaver County).
“If you are going to bring people into the grand jury, either bring charges or start (the investigation) all over again. Nobody knows when the next shoe will drop. … I am not blaming any one person. It’s the entire system, there is no one stepping forward saying, ‘we should get our act together.’”
The things Moriarty has seen during the ongoing investigation into DelTondo’s death leave her with little regard for the Aliquippa Police Department.
“It does not match up in any way shape or form to so many of the other departments we have seen that have been able to investigate really tough cases … When you’re getting suspended, when you’re getting charges brought against you, you can’t focus on anything but your own life.”
While Moriarty said the episode does not reach a conclusion as to who killed DelTondo, the evidence presented does start to paint a picture for the viewer.
“I caution anyone who sees our report to realize our hour does seem to point in one direction, because the known evidence seems to point in one direction. But there could be missing factors that could change the whole thing. I think we know as much as we can.”
Despite all of the controversies and twists and turns in this case, the nine-time national Emmy Award-winning reporter has never lost sight of what matters the most – the life of Rachael DelTondo.
“There is something so poignantly sad about this young woman, who should have been in the prime of her life, never getting the things she really wanted,” Moriarty said.
“It is really sad.”
CBS’ “48 HOURS” will broadcast its national primetime report at 10 p.m. on Saturday.
See Also: Timeline: The Murder Of Rachael DelTondo