Family mourns murder victim
She might have been 97 years old, but Gertrude Price was still very active and independent, living alone at 23 E. Grand St. in Nanticoke. She cleaned, cooked, and shoveled snow all by herself, often refusing help from family and friends.
"You couldn't stop her," Price's granddaughter, Debbie Piper, 56, of Newport Township, recalled Saturday.
Price was the matriarch of five generations of a close-knit family, with eight great-great-grandchildren in the family tree. Family members gathered Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner at a relative's home in Dallas, then Piper dropped Price off at her home in the evening.
Soon, the holiday would turn horrific. An intruder beat Price to death in what investigators are calling a random home invasion robbery.
Price died from "blunt head trauma," Luzerne County Coroner Bill Lisman said Saturday following an autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross. Her death, Lisman said, is a homicide.
Piper said Price's loved ones can't understand who could do such a thing to the widowed seamstress who has been retired for decades.
"There was a break-in and she was attacked," Piper said. "We have no idea who it was. She had no enemies. None."
Police guarded Price's home overnight to protect the crime scene. Investigators from state and Nanticoke police returned Saturday morning to continue to collect evidence.
Family members found Price dead inside her home just before 10 a.m. Friday, about 12 hours after they last knew she was alive. Investigators believe the killing occurred around 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night - because lights were on in the house at a time she would be sleeping.
It appears the killer entered the house through a basement window that had been broken out, police said.
Unlike many other killings recently, police said this one is different: it appears to be a random attack.
"I know a lot times we say there is no cause for concern because it doesn't look random," Trooper Martin Connors said at a press conference at the scene Friday. "This, unfortunately, is exactly the opposite of that. It looks as if this poor lady, 97 years old, lived her whole life and has to leave this world this way."
Piper said her grandmother was still very active. Price's daughter, Carol Belmont, of Jackson Township, brought Price to Wilkes-Barre every Friday to meet Piper for lunch. On Sundays, Piper would take Price to church in Bloomsburg, then go grocery shopping and grab lunch.
Up until a few years ago, Price took the bus by herself every day to Wilkes-Barre to go to the Boscov's department store, Piper said. That's around the same time she stopped cutting the grass in her large yard with a bulky push mower. She has finally allowed a neighbor to cut her grass, she said.
"She was extremely independent," Piper said.
Price leaves behind a daughter, three grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren, Piper said.
"We loved her and we'll miss her a lot," said Piper, who is now a grandmother herself. "For 12 years, I had five generations. I was blessed."
No arrests have been made in Price's death and police have not identified any suspects.
Lt. Richard Krawetz, commander of the crime unit at state police at Wyoming, said police are aggressively investigating and soliciting any leads from people with information.
"It's being looked into as aggressively as any homicide we investigate. This one has a little different twist because it's a defenseless 97-year-old woman," Krawetz said Saturday. "Obviously, people are outraged. We're appealing for the public's assistance in solving this heinous crime."
Anyone with information - especially anyone who saw something between 10 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday - is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.