Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Disappearance of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone

Under Water

It soon became obvious that something was very wrong.  Over 24 hours had passed, and no one had heard from either Danielle or Richard.  The police in Philadelphia and New Jersey were notified, but the family and friends of Danielle and Richard couldn't just sit by and wait for answers.  They started their own search.

Imbo-Petrone missing poster
Imbo-Petrone missing poster

A homemade missing-persons poster was put together, featuring a photograph of Danielle and Richard.  Hundreds of copies were made and distributed throughout the South Street area.  Loved ones organized volunteer search parties to comb wooded areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.   In the meantime, the Philadelphia police scoured the city for Richard's  black-and-silver 1991 Dodge Dakota pickup with Pennsylvania license plate YFH-2319 and a NASCAR #99 decal on the rear window.  They also searched the parking lots at Philadelphia International Airport as well as the nearby swamp land in Tinicum Township.

Philadelphia Police patch
Philadelphia Police patch

Eventually the police focused on the Delaware River.  Having found no physical evidence whatsoever, they had to consider the possibility that the truck was submerged in the river, the nearest body of water to where Danielle and Richard were last seen.  Several psychics contacted Danielle's family, and one was convinced that Richard's pickup was in the river under the Walt Whitman Bridge, which connects Philadelphia and New Jersey.  The psychic sensed that Danielle was still alive but somehow trapped in the wreckage.  Frantic to find her before it was too late, her family immediately searched the area under the bridge and urged the police to trawl the river there.  The police pulled several vehicles from the murky waters at various locations, but none of them were Richard's pickup.

A $12,200 reward was offered to anyone who came forward with information leading to the whereabouts of Danielle and Richard.  That figure soon grew to $100,000.  A billboard on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia begged the public to study the couple's faces and contact the police if they felt they could help. 

Richard Petrone's father
Richard Petrone's father

Initially the families were hopeful that Danielle and Richard would show up and that there would be a logical explanation for their disappearance.  "Every day I wake up and I hope the phone's going to ring, and Rich is going to say, 'Dad, you won't believe what happened and what we did,'" Richard's father, Richard Petrone, Sr., told the Philadelphia Daily News.  But as time passed, the families' hopes dimmed, and the possibility of foul play could not be ruled out.  Suspicions fell on Danielle's estranged husband, Joe Imbo. 

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