The Disappearance of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone
The eastern end of Philadelphia's South Street is where the young and the hip go to party. The street is lined with bars, restaurants, live-music venues, clothing boutiques, tattoo parlors, and hair-braiding salons. It even has a specialty store that sells nothing but condoms. The aroma of Philly cheese steaks wafts over the intersection of South and Fourth Streets, dispatched from large exhaust fans on the side of Jim's Steaks, where the line of customers typically extends out the door and around the corner. When any of the local professional sports teams wins a championship, fans congregate on South Street to celebrate (and occasionally overturn a car or two). On weekend nights, teenagers with spiked and dyed hair, tattooed skaters, hip-hop urbanites, and young professionals share the crowded sidewalks. The street itself is one-way and wide enough for just one lane of traffic. After dark, it slows to a crawl, and cranked-up car speakers frequently provide a mega-bass soundtrack for the scene, like the rhythmic stomp of a slow-approaching T-rex.
Abilene's bar and restaurant is in the heart of the entertainment district on South Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets. It's a popular night spot that features a full menu and live music every night of the week. On February 19, 2005, a typical Saturday-night crowd filled the place. The weather was mild for the season, but wintry conditions seldom keep people away from South Street. Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone had met two of Richard's friends at Abilene's that night, Anthony Valentino and Michelle McLaughlin.
Earlier that evening, Danielle had had dinner at a restaurant with her mother; Richard's mother, Marge Petrone; and Richard's sister, Christine Lavita, who is a good friend of Danielle's. The Petrone and Ottobre families were close, and this girls' night out had become something of a monthly ritual. Richard, who had been dating Danielle for about a year, had picked her up at the restaurant after dinner.
Danielle worked from home, processing mortgages, while she cared for her toddler son, Joseph Imbo III. She was separated from her husband, Joe Imbo. According to one of Danielle's closest friends, Joe Imbo had abandoned his wife and child while he was having an affair.
Danielle had known Richard Petrone since she was fifteen. Though they had gone to different high schools in New Jersey — she attended Cherry Hill High School East while he was at Bishop Eustace Prep in nearby Pennsauken — Danielle was friendly with Richard's sister, Christine. Danielle had a crush on Richard, but he had been so consumed with playing ice hockey at the time, he hadn't picked up on her interest. It wasn't until much later that they rediscovered one another.
After high school Richard went to work at his family's bakery, Viking Pastries, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he had worked until the day he disappeared. Known for his skillful cake decorations, he created all the wedding cakes at Viking. For many years he had lived in the apartment over the bakery with his daughter Angela, raising her as a single parent. In 2003, Angela, who was about to become a teenager, decided to move in with her mother in South Philadelphia, so Richard relocated to their neighborhood in order to be near his daughter. Richard and Angela's mother had never married.