Unsolved Investigations: The Helen Popa Case

By Angie Koehle

Published 05/07 2014 02:13PM

Updated 05/07 2014 06:24PM


"I don't know who can harm a 73-year-old woman.  I just don't know who could do that," Lisa Popa said in a recent interview. 

Popa has thought about that for nearly 35 years now.  Her grandmother Helen Popa was attacked at her Mount Union home in the late hours of December 31, 1979.  The native of Romania was found outside her Division Street house.

"The vision that stays with me the most is my father putting locks on my other grandmother's doors.  I can remember that to this day," she said.

Lisa was in college at the time.  Her father rushed from their New Jersey home to Huntingdon County.  At first they were told she was beaten, then later found out she was dead. 

"We don't know why she was taken outside and her body was discovered outside, but there's evidence to suggest she was assaulted both inside and outside of the house," said Tpr. Gretchen Swank, the lead investigator on the case.

Tpr. Swank from the state police barracks in Huntingdon was handed the case in October. 

"There was no evidence to suggest the entry was forced.  The door may have been open and these subjects just walked in to her residence or they may have knocked and were allowed to enter," Tpr. Swank said.  "Several items were stolen from the residence, money and jewelry."

Tpr. Swank has visited the site, pored over the old reports, studied the black and white photos and consulted with her troop's criminal investigation assessment officer, Tpr. David Clemens.

"I believe we have a good idea of some of the players who were involved, but there are probably other people who have direct knowledge or were somehow involved," Tpr. David Clemens said.

Lisa is holding out hope that she will see the case solved.  Her father too, though she says the years have jaded him.  He is 75 years old now.

"I think it's time to talk to the police.  It's time to let this out.  It has to be doing damage to their soul and their piece of mind.  If you know something, let it go.  It'll help our family," Lisa Popa said.

There is a $10,000 reward for information in the case.  Lisa Popa has also set up a website that you can find here.  The number for State Police in Huntingdon is 814-627-3161.

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