The Disappearance of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone
By all accounts, Richard was in love with Danielle, but she was having doubts about their relationship. Shortly before the night they disappeared, she had told him that she wanted to break up. She'd confided to her friends that she was feeling pressured by both Richard and her husband and she needed some space. Richard and Joe Imbo had had three heated exchanges over the phone. Imbo wanted his wife back, and in one conversation in November 2004, he allegedly threatened to go to the bakery with a baseball bat to kill Richard. Joe Imbo claims he never threatened Richard Petrone, and the police believe that the two men had never met face-to-face.
Danielle had "reached a good point" when she broke up with Richard, according to one of her friends. She'd settled custody arrangements with her husband regarding their son and had also come to the realization that she and Richard didn't want the same things. Richard wanted to get married and live in the city. She wanted to raise her son in the suburbs and wasn't ready to get married again. Joe Imbo was her second husband.
But despite the fact that Danielle had told Richard that she didn't want to date him anymore, she had agreed to be with him on the night of February 19, 2005. She had gotten a ride into Philadelphia from her townhouse condominium in suburban Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and had planned to ride back with Richard. Her son was spending the night with his father.
The next day, Danielle had an 11:00 a.m. appointment for a haircut at a hair salon in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Richard's sister, Christine Lavita, works at that salon, and when Danielle didn't show up, Christine called Danielle's cellphone. Danielle didn't pick up, and Christine became concerned. It wasn't like Danielle to miss an appointment without calling to reschedule. She knew that Danielle had planned to catch up on some work at home that afternoon and that Danielle's husband would be bringing their son back at 3:30 p.m.
In the meantime, Christine's mother, Marge Petrone, had been trying to get in touch with her son. Richard had told friends that he would be at his apartment that afternoon, watching the Daytona 500 on television. Mrs. Petrone called Richard's home phone as well as his cellphone, but only got the recorded messages. She had a feeling that her son had turned off his cellphone, which struck her as odd because Richard never turned it off. She called around, trying to locate her son. He was a devoted father who was always available for his daughter, so it was unimaginable that he would make himself unreachable.
Danielle was just as dedicated to her son. Little Joseph meant everything to her, and her friends unanimously describe her as "a good mother." She knew her husband would be bringing her son back to her that afternoon, and she would never forget anything that involved Joseph.
All that Sunday, friends and family kept calling Danielle's and Richard's phone numbers, trying to find them, but by the end of the day, no one had heard from either of them. As the sun set and darkness fell, worries increased. Where could they be? their families wondered. Why hadn't they called? This just wasn't like them.