|DA John Morganelli and PSP Lt Joseph Sokolofski|
A Whitehall Township woman who has been missing since November 21, when she left her job at Northampton's Duck Duck Goose Child Care, has been found. Gregory Robert Graf, age 51, is being held in Northampton County jail on charges that he killed Jessica Padgett, age 31, and then disposed of her remains behind a shed on his property, located along Covered Bridge Road in Allen Township. According to an affidavit of probably cause filed by Pennsylvania State Police, Graf admitted to shooting her and hiding her body.
So ends a strange disappearance that had drawn national attention. Padgett's sister, Kristi Davis, had set up a "Help Find Jessica Padgett" Facebook page that had attracted over 5,000 followers. Flyers were posted along telephone poles and at local businesses, and search parties were organized.
One of those who assisted in the search is Graf, the man who allegedly had known all along that she was dead.
District Attorney John Morganelli, who will be trying this case personally, stated that things happened very quickly after she left the day care on November 21 at 1 pm for the four-mile trip to use her step-father's fax machine. Within a half hour of her departure, she was dead. Morganelli believes there may have been a sexual element, although he is waiting for an autopsy.
Graf lived with Padgett's mother, Danelle, but she was in Florida at the time of the homicide. She and Graf are the owners of Distinctive Fence, which is based at their home.
Padgett's car was later discovered at a Dollar General Store. Pennsylvania State Police were able to review surveillance video, and could see the vehicle being parked, but the person who exited was not her. Her step father's truck was parked near by, and there is surveillance video of that truck later being driven away. Morganelli believes this may be evidence that this was a planned killing.
Padgett, whose Facebook page indicates she was just married in September, is survived by her husband Mica, two biological children and a step-child.
Her family released a statement stating, "The world shines less bright today," and calling her "a beautiful, vibrant young woman who was beloved by her family and friends." After thanking the Pennsylvania State Police for their "tireless efforts," they asked that " you please respect our privacy while we grieve."