An Allentown man told police he strangled a Tamaqua woman and burned her body because he thought she would refuse to drive him to a custody hearing.
Anthony Darrell Heath, 25, of 506 W. Chew St., Allentown, is charged with killing Angela Marie Steigerwalt, 35, on the night of Jan. 31 in his Allentown apartment.
Police testified at Heath's preliminary hearing Tuesday, saying he transported her body to Flagstaff Mountain in Jim Thorpe and disposed of it in a bed of laurel bushes.
Her charred body was discovered Saturday morning, Feb. 1, when firefighters responded to what they thought was a brush fire.
The 75-minute hearing was conducted by District Judge Karen C. Devine of Allentown at the Lehigh County Courthouse.
Heath appeared wearing a blue prison jumpsuit. He remained quiet during the proceedings and didn't offer any testimony.
On the run
Trooper Raymond Judge, of the criminal investigating assessment unit of the Bethlehem barracks, testified that after Heath murdered Steigerwalt and disposed of her body, he took her car and headed to North Carolina to visit a brother.
He was stopped en route by police officers from Kinston, N.C. Heath was in possession of Steigerwalt's car, credit card and driver's license, and his male roommate's driver's license.
Judge said he interviewed Heath in the back of a police cruiser while he was being extradited from North Carolina to Pennsylvania.
Heath told him that he and Steigerwalt had been seeing each other for nearly a year.
Judge said Heath told him that he and Steigerwalt got into a disagreement at his residence.
Heath had told the investigator that he had a custody hearing scheduled for Feb. 13 and Steigerwalt had told him she would drive him to it.
The defendant told police he "got the impression she was going to renege on this," so he killed her by removing an electrical cord that was connected from the TV to the sound system, and wrapping it around her neck.
Heath told the trooper that while strangling Steigerwalt, "It seemed like 10 minutes, but it probably didn't last that long."
After checking for vital signs, Heath took her car to a Wal-Mart in Breinigsville and purchased, with cash, a tote bin, a Scripto lighter, and lighter fluid, testimony revealed.
He left the store, then returned with Steigerwalt's credit card and bought several more items, including underwear, socks, and a watch.
He returned to the apartment, testimony said, and placed the victim into the tote bin. He then placed the container with Steigerwalt onto the back seat of her car.
Judge said Heath told him he drove to Flagstaff Mountain Road in Jim Thorpe, parked his vehicle, and proceeded to climb down an embankment. While doing so, Steigerwalt's body fell out of the bin.
Trooper Joseph Campbell of the Lehighton barracks said state police were requested to assist Jim Thorpe Borough Police after firefighters discovered the human remains.
Campbell said he saw a "burnt and charred torso," adding that it was actually "about half of a human torso. The legs were missing."
Police said a firefighter got sick at the scene.
An autopsy determined the cause of death was "ligature found around the victim's neck. It appeared to be some type of wire," Campbell said.
There was no identification on the body. Dental records were needed to confirm the identity.
Police found a Wal-Mart receipt, traced it to the Breinigsville store, and determined that a purchase was made using a credit card belonging to an "Angela Steigerwalt." In addition, video surveillance footage was obtained which seemed to show Heath making a purchase, police said.
Campbell said they went to Steigerwalt's home, where her husband, Gary, said he was in the process of filing a missing-person report since she had been missing 36 hours. A report cannot be filed until an adult is missing at least 24 hours.
The state police officer said "hundreds of items" were taken as evidence from Steigerwalt's car when it was found in North Carolina.
At one point in the hearing, police said they asked Heath if he knew Steigerwalt was married.
He said he did.
The magistrate ordered that all charges be bound to trial in Lehigh County Court. They include criminal homicide, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, and access device fraud.
Heath is being held in Lehigh County Prison without bail.