Police: Mom Who Vanished Was Murdered by Stepfather

Gregory R. Graf's motive may have been sexual assault: district attorney
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2014 7:43 AM CST
Police: Mom Who Vanished Was Murdered by Stepfather
Jessica Padgett.   (handout)

Mother of three Jessica Padgett left her young son at the child care center where she worked in Northampton, Penn., just before 1pm on Nov. 21 to fax paperwork at her stepfather's company, Distinctive Fence—she held a second job there. She was never seen alive again. Officials say the body of the 33-year-old woman, who was shot in the back of the head, was found buried behind a shed yesterday morning on property owned by her stepfather, Gregory R. Graf. He was yesterday charged with her murder. Graf reportedly confessed to shooting Padgett in his home (his home and business are located on the same land) and disposing of her body, says Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. Morganelli adds the apparent motive was sexual assault, the Allentown Morning Call reports.

Initially, the only clue in Padgett's disappearance was her white Subaru Outback, found with her cellphone inside in a Dollar General parking lot, the Express-Times reported. Investigators say Graf left his truck near the parking lot the morning Padgett vanished, telling an employee he had to have work done on it. Later, he allegedly dropped off Padgett's car; surveillance video shows the truck being driven away about a minute later. "We're still trying to develop that information as to whether this might be some evidence of premeditation, or whether he had good intentions to drop his truck off," says Morganelli. Family friends tell NBC Philadelphia that Graf participated in the search for Padgett, a newlywed who married in September. Padgett's mother was in Florida at the time of her daughter's disappearance. (Ten years after vanishing with her child, this mom surfaced.)

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