Woman charged in shooting death of elderly Liberty man
WELLSBORO – Debra L. Lockett, 57, of 1489 Nauvoo Road, Morris, was charged by state police with felony criminal homicide in the Sept. 13 shooting death of Oliver Litzelman, 82, and felony aggravated assault and robbery in the stabbing of Edwina Litzelman, 81, of 7832 Route 414, Liberty Township.
She also was charged with illegal possession of firearms, possessing an instrument of crime, simple assault and theft by deception, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.
Police said the charges were based in part on information provided by Mrs. Litzelman, witness Helen Miller, 78, and Calvin Campbell, 69, as well as investigative efforts by state troopers from Mansfield, Montoursville and Milton.
Physical evidence, including two .32-caliber bullets was collected at the scene of the homicide on Sept. 15 and submitted for evaluation at the state police Bureau of Forensic Services regional laboratories in Wyoming, Harrisburg and Greensburg.
The Litzelmans were not discovered until two days after the attack by their daughter, Deborah Berstler, when she went to check on them around 10:41 a.m. Sept. 15.
An autopsy conducted on Sept. 16 concluded Mr. Litzelman died from a gunshot wound to the head and neck.
Police said Lockett went to the Litzelmans’ house and claimed to be a descendant of the family doing genealogy research.
She gained entry with that story, police said, and then demanded money from the couple.
When Mrs. Litzelman told her she had no cash in the house, Lockett demanded her checkbook and continued to demand cash, court records state.
Mr. Litzelman got up from his chair to intervene, and police said Lockett pulled a black handgun from her handbag. Litzelman thought the gun was a toy, police said, until Lockett discharged a round into the floor.
Undeterred, Litzelman continued toward his wife to get between her and Lockett, police said, and Lockett shot him.
Mrs. Litzelman eventually gave Lockett about $150 in cash from her purse and thought Lockett had taken her husband’s wallet, police said.
Lockett then pulled a phone cord from the wall and fled the scene, police said.
Police said Lockett allegedly also stopped at the home of Helen and Carl Miller, 3441 Nauvoo Road, earlier that day and asked to use their phone.
The Millers said she had arrived on foot, saying she was having car trouble, and when she was invited into their home, she pulled her sleeve over her hand to open the door and pulled her coat’s hood over her head, according to court records.
She dialed the phone and appeared to speak with someone, then left and walked toward the road, police said.
Carl Miller became suspicious and went to look for her, but she had disappeared, police said.
Their son, Michael, called state police at Mansfield to report the visit because it seemed suspicious to him.
Kathleen Phillips, Lockett’s neighbor, told police Lockett approached her and asked for money sometime after the shooting.
Lockett said she had bounced some checks and was going to be arrested, according to police records. She didn’t want Kathleen to tell her husband, Walter, or Lockett’s husband, George.
Kathleen wouldn’t give her money so she left, police said.
Lockett also was identified by a photo array shown to witnesses as well as to Virginia and Calvin Campbell, owners of Campbell’s Auto on Nauvoo Road, Morris Township, where Lockett purchased the dark green 1997 Pontiac Bonneville reported as having been seen in the area of the shooting, police said. She allegedly paid for the car by writing out a check on a closed account.
The Campbells said they drove to her residence and confronted her about the bad check on Sept. 12. They repossessed the car when she said she had no money and parked it back at the dealership, according to police.
A search warrant executed on Oct. 3 yielded an H&R model 732 .32-caliber revolver that had two bullets discharged, one of which police believe killed Oliver Litzelman.
Another warrant for the vehicle allegedly operated by Lockett on Sept. 13 yielded several samples that were sent to the state police lab in Wyoming for examination.
Police said Oliver Litzelman’s DNA was found on the spent bullet recovered from his residence.
Lockett’s DNA was found on the handgun retrieved from her residence by police, and a mixture of the two was found on the inside back pocket of a pair of Wrangler jeans worn by Litzelman, police said.
Lockett was jailed on the criminal homicide and other felony charges without bail, and her preliminary hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. April 22.