The search for the body of Falls Township resident Diane Corado has involved federal, state and local law enforcement officials - and yet, two years later, nothing.
Falls police Lieutenant Hank Ward said recently by phone that investigators have “exhausted everything” in the search for the woman who is alleged to have been murder on December 16, 2010 by her former convict ex-boyfriend Kenneth Lamon Patterson, 50.
Despite the lack of a body, Corado was legally declared dead in 2011. The county district attorney’s office is set to prosecute Patterson for the murder of Corado - body or no body.
Sunday, December 16, 2010
At the Village of Pennbrook apartment complex, the air was crisp and the overcast sky was not yet illuminated by the sun, but a horrible situation was about to play out on a peaceful Sunday in mid-December.
Corado, dressed in only a short-sleeved shirt and flannel pants, and her friend, Margaret Ricketts-Boyd, were rousted from Corado’s apartment where she was staying at Village of Pennbrook complex nestled off Mill Creek Road by an enraged Patterson, who hit his ex-girlfriend with a pipe and pulled her by the hair. He forcefully removed the two women from the apartment and drove off with them inside his black 2004 Pontiac Aztek at around 6 a.m.
BucksLocalNews.com reported that Rickketts-Boyd stated in a preliminary hearing in March 2011 that Corado begged Pattersonto take her to get medical treatment for her injuries. The suspect, who took a large knife from the apartment said he would take her to the hospital.
Not far from the site of the kidnapping, Rickketts-Boyd was pushed out of the car on Route 13 close Penn Valley Road. She was able to get to a local store and alert police of the violent incident.
As crime scene investigators descended upon the well-maintained apartment complex, police gathered a task force to find the missing woman and her boyfriend, who had a history of crime.
Police stated in 2010 they had information that Patterson and Corado crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge and entered Camden just before 8 a.m.
Just after sunset, a key chain found in yard in Camden, N.J. lead to the discovery of the Aztek 1600 block of Norris Street. Police found a horrid scene inside the car. Blood was everywhere - in fact, an affidavit says that blood covered much of the front interior of the car and pooled in the cupholders. Police are certain no one could survive that much blood loss.
Patterson and Corado were not found with the car, however, the hunt continued.
By 9:30 p.m., police from several agencies descended upon Clover Motel on Route 73 in Maple Shade, just outside of Camden, and arrested Patterson after a tip. He was in a disheveled room and wearing blood-stained clothes. Corado was not found at the motel.
Search for the Body
Falls police, working with several other agencies, started a massive search for the missing body.
Corado’s son, Scott Melnick, just after the kidnapping still held hope his mother would be found alive.
“Mom, if you're there, just stay strong," he told an NBC 10 reporter. “My fiancé and I are planning a wedding in the near future. We’d like her home safe and sound so we can have a nice Christmas together.”
At points, the weeks-long search consisted of law enforcement officials of all ranks, cadets from the Philadelphia Police Department Academy, FBI agents, helicopters and about 20 K-9 units from as far away as Cape May, N.J. and Lancaster County. Ward called the search one of the most extensive efforts involving police dogs in county history.
They first searched Falls Township Community Park, which contains a lake and large wooded area. It is also located just across the street from the Village of Pennbrook.
They searched Morrisville, Waterfront Park in the city of Trenton, Maple Beach in Bristol Township and the rough Bloomsdale-Fleetwing section. Patterson, Ward said, was known to purchase drugs in Bloomsdale.
They searched the Turnpike from Bristol to Willow Grove. Police even closed lanes of traffic and brought in state police air support.
They searched parts of Abington in Montgomery County, including a wooded area behind a shopping center where they suspected Patterson used an ATM.
The area surrounding nearly every bridge that crosses the Delaware River in the region was searched Corado’s body. Investigators even poured over bridge surveillance videos.
When focus shifted to Trenton, loads of officers and trained dogs filled the city and searched everywhere. “We tore the whole city of Camden apart,” Ward said.
Even with all the assets and effort - nothing.
Prosecutors Prepare Case
The District Attorney’s office and Falls police have collected damning plenty of evidence against Patterson, Ward said.
Prosecutors have said in many media reports that they are confident they have enough evidence to get Patterson convicted. An August 2012 Bucks County Courier Times story said the county plans to go for the death penalty.
Officials could not speak of the evidence before trial.
Recently, Patterson and his legal team appealed his charges to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court ruled they would not hear his case.
Patterson is in county jail without bail awaiting an early 2013 trial on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint, aggravated assault, criminal trespass and possessing an instrument of crime.
History of Crime
Corado’s disappearance is not the first crime Patterson has been accused of.
In early 2010, Patterson was released from jail after being found guilty of kidnapping, attacking and carjacking a previous girlfriend in New Jersey, Ward said.
He also had multiple conviction for burglary and robbery, CharleyProject.org stated in a report.
In the two years that have lapsed since Falls Township woman went missing, police say many lesson have been learned.
Ward said his department learned that being organized is not organized enough in major cases.
He also said township authorities learned a great deal about cell phone technology and how most area bridges have cameras that can be used to capture evidence of suspects crossing them.
Hours upon hours have been poured into the case by police. All they want is to bring the family closure and find the body of the 57-year-old mother of an adult son, Ward said, who worked nearly nonstop and barely had time to celebrate Christmas.
He said that the search became very personal for officers and many donated their off-the-clock time to aid in the investigation.
The lieutenant said he just wishes Patterson would stop being a “jerk” and tell authorities where Corado’s body is. “He’s just making her family suffer.”
As time has passed the Village of Pennbrook apartment where Corado lived was turned over to her son and eventually rented to new occupants.
“I wish to this day we could have given her family closure,” Ward said with a frustrated tone in his voice. “It still bugs me.”