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Teacher caught in car with teen got death threats, cops say. But who gunned her down?

Aliquippa police are investigating the death of Rachael DelTondo, an ex-teacher who was killed on her mother's driveway on Sunday. Cops seized the cellphone of Sheldon Jeter Jr., who police say they found in a steamy car with DelTondo when he was just a teen.
Aliquippa police are investigating the death of Rachael DelTondo, an ex-teacher who was killed on her mother's driveway on Sunday. Cops seized the cellphone of Sheldon Jeter Jr., who police say they found in a steamy car with DelTondo when he was just a teen. Rachael DelTondo's Facebook page

The killing of 33-year-old Rachael DelTondo remains a mystery, as investigators continue to look for clues.

DelTondo died Sunday night after someone shot her at pointblank range in her mother's driveway, CBS Pittsburgh reported. Neighbors told police they heard around 10 to 12 shots fired in quick succession that night.

Now police told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that investigators seized the phone of a 20-year-old male just one day after the shocking murder. That man, Sheldon Jeter Jr., was found sitting in a steamy car with DelTondo at 2 a.m. two years ago when she was a teacher at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and he was just a teen, police say.

The alleged meeting happened in February 2016 — but police never filed any charges, the Post-Gazette reported. She denied any inappropriate contact with Jeter, who was 17 at the time.

But news of the encounter leaked in October 2017, according to WTAE. Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier said that whoever brought the allegations to light likely had "a personal vendetta" against DelTondo.

She was suspended from her teaching job that November.

In an interview with the Times Online, attorney Michael Santicola denied that Jeter, his client, had anything to do with the slaying of DelTondo on Mother's Day. The pair would frequently text and call each other, he said, and the messages on his phone will clear his client's name.

“He has nothing to hide," Santicola told the Times Online. “We believe the cell phone records will exonerate him."

Santicola told the Times Online that he first started to represent Jeter once news of the 2016 incident leaked.

So what do police know?

DelTondo headed to a Circle K gas station at around 8 p.m. on Sunday with Lauren Watkins, the daughter of Aliquippa police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, according to a police affidavit obtained by the Post-Gazette. Watkins, a minor, drove the woman to a friend's house after making a stop at that Circle K.

They left the house of that friend — named Chris Jones — by 9:20 p.m. and drove back to DelTondo's house to change clothes, according to the police report. Then they went to get ice cream with Tyrie Jeter, who is Sheldon's older brother.

Sheldon texted his brother “I got left huh" when he learned that they were at the ice cream shop without him, police told the Post-Gazette, but Tyrie stopped responding when his sibling asked who he was with. Then police say Watkins dropped off DelTondo at her mother's with the intention of returning later that night. That was 10:44 p.m.

Someone would shoot the ex-teacher dead before Watkins could ever see her again, police told WTAE. The police report says shots rang out just four minutes after Watkins left DelTondo to go drop off Tyrie. DelTondo died at the scene, police say.

John Paul, a reporter for the Beaver Countian, told CBS that DelTondo complained of threatening messages that warned she would die in 2018. He said she was "certainly" living in fear "at times."

"She contacted the police – Aliquippa Police Department," Paul said. "She told me it took about four days for them to come and get a report from her about it."

Santicola told the Times Online that Jeter also heard about the death threats directed toward DelTondo. According to the newspaper, he hinted her death could be related to something else: a possible corruption case against the city of Aliquippa.

Santicola alleged that DelTondo was just days away from appearing before a grand jury in that case, WTAE reported.

But Lozier told the Times Online that “I cannot comment on a grand jury investigation."

Frank Catroppa — the former fiance of DelTondo until they broke off the engagement about a year ago — also denies any wrongdoing in the killing. His lawyer told the Times Online that video footage from his home shows he was not involved.

No matter how challenging, Lozier said that investigators are determined to bring DelTondo justice.

"We're working with every resource we have," he told CBS News. "We're investigating everyone that was driving around Aliquippa that night that was anywhere near this young lady's house."

Gavin Bromfield was murdered outside of his Miramar home on Aug. 3, 2016. His mother, Monica Bromfield, made an emotional plea for help in his solving his murder at the Miramar Police Department on Sept. 12, 2016.

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