Killer Sobs 'I Don't Know Why I Shot Him' During Sentencing
Elizabeth 'Lily' Collazo broke down while pleading guilty Monday to shooting to death her ex-boyfriend, Mark Werkeiser, while he slept.
Mark Werkheiser was the baby of the family, the youngest of four children.
In turn, he raised four children of his own, had a large and loving extended family, and had established his own buinsess.
He lost all of that on the morning of March 15, 2012 at his home in Williams Township near Easton.
And now the woman who killed him -- Elizabeth "Lily" Collazo, the mother of Werkheiser's children -- will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Collazo, 43, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Werkheiser's shooting Monday in Northampton County Court. Her trial -- at which she would have faced the death penalty -- had been scheduled to begin next week.
Under state law, a first-degree murder plea carries an automatic life sentence.
"You will not be paroled. You will die in prison," Judge Edward Smith told Collazo after calling her a "pathetic, self-absorbed, cold-blooded killer. You brutally robbed your children of a father. The pain you caused is immeasurable."
The sentencing capped an emotional hearing in which Werkheiser's family tearfully described what they had lost.
Collazo, meanwhile, sobbed and stuttered her way through the judge's questions and her account of how she killed Werkheiser. Smith had to stop her a few times to allow her to compose herself.
She ultimately broke down after testifying that she had initially planned to kill herself in front of Werkheiser, but then changed her mind and shot him as he slept in his home on Browns Drive.
"I don't know why I shot him! I don't know! It wasn't supposed to be that way! It was supposed to be me!" Collazo wailed, and then began screaming.
Smith called for a recess, and Collazo tried to get up and move away from the defense table. A group of deputy sheriffs grabbed her and carried her from the courtroom. She returned about 10 minutes later, handcuffed to a wheelchair.
Police had recorded a phone conversation between Collazo and one of her friends in which she admitted to the killing.
In court Monday, First Assitant District Attorney Terry Houck said one of those conversations revealed that Collazo had worn earplugs during the murder because "I didn't want to hear him scream."
At the time of his death, Werkheiser, 38, had been involved in a custody dispute with Collazo. In the past -- and again in court Monday -- Collazo had accused Werkheiser of abuse and neglect, something his family has denied.
She also produced a piece of paper she said was a letter from Werkheiser, written as an attempt to win her back. It expressed, she said, "his non-closeness to his family." Members of the Werkheiser family let out derisive laughs.
Several of them testified Monday: two of his sisters -- one of whom read a letter from his mother -- and his twin 17-year-old daughters. (Houck also read a letter from Werkheiser's 14-year-old son, Mark.)
Daughter Chelesea Werkheiser said she knew her mother had killed her father from the beginning, but struggles with why it happend.
"For whatever reason, it was no excuse to take my dad," she said. "After this, she is dead to me."
"2012 has been the worst year of our lives," testified Rachelle Altemose, Werkheiser's sister, calling Collazo "evil" and "manipulative."
In addition to avoiding the death penalty, part of Collazo's plea deal allows her to write to her children twice a month, and visit with her children if they choose to do so. That outcome seemed all but impossible, based on testimony from Werkheiser family members.
"None of her children want to see her. None of her children want to visit her," Altemose had said during her statement.
Smith stressed several times that his acceptance of the plea would in no way force the children to visit. And even if she never hears from her children again, that wouldn't be grounds for her to withdraw her plea, the judge said.
The hearing lasted close to three hours, as Smith carefully walked Collazo through her rights to a trial and to appeals, and made it clear what would happen once he accepted the plea.
She can't appeal, and will stay in prison unless she successfully petitions the governor for a pardon or commuted sentence, both of which aren't likely to happen.
"You will die in jail," Smith said.
"I'm already dead, your honor," Collazo said.
That was earlier in the hearing, before her daughter talked about the father who won't be there to walk her down the aisle.
Collazo called out "I'm sorry," as she was wheeled from the courtroom. Then the door closed and she was gone.