Police: Jackson Twp. man said he killed his wife to 'save the world'

Liz Evans Scolforo

John D. Ziegler III told detectives he killed his pregnant wife with a sword because she was the "queen bee" of a race of hybrid humans that was taking over the world, according to testimony from his preliminary hearing Friday morning.

"(He said) he needed to destroy her to save the world," Northern York County Regional Police Detective Mark Baker testified, adding that Ziegler also told him that "he thought he did the right thing."

Diana and John Ziegler
(Facebook photo)

Ziegler, 31, called 911 shortly after 4 p.m. Jan. 27 and announced he'd killed 25-year-old Diana Ziegler, police have said. She was six months pregnant with the couple's second child, testimony indicated — a daughter they planned to name Charlotte.

Responding officers found her dead on the back deck of the couple's 1157 Ledge Drive home in Jackson Township. She'd suffered multiple blows to her head and neck, delivered by a scimitar-style sword that was 4 inches wide, charging documents state. Police said they found the victim's blood and skull fragments on the deck.

John Ziegler was arrested at the scene and later charged with homicide and homicide of an unborn child. He remains in York County Prison without bail.

He sat quietly during his preliminary hearing, held before District Judge Thomas Reilly in the York County Judicial Center. At the close of the hearing, Reilly determined enough evidence exists for John Ziegler to stand trial, and set formal court arraignment for April 21.

Death penalty? Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy said a decision about whether to seek the death penalty will be made by the time of formal arraignment.

Baker, the lead investigator in the double homicide case, testified that he interviewed John Ziegler for about an hour and described the man as anxious and upset.

"He said multiple times that Diana didn't deserve it," Baker said, even though the man also said he believed he'd done the right thing.

Neighbors hold vigil for slain Jackson Twp. mother

John Ziegler told the detective that he'd been feeling "off" for several months.

"He believed the world was being controlled by hybrid humans," and that his wife needed to be killed because she was the "queen bee" of those hybrids, Baker testified.

Changing the weather: The alleged killer also said he believed he could change the weather by changing his emotions, then explained that he watched snowflakes start to fall, and then stop falling, as his emotions fluctuated, according to the detective.

"His interview with me was really all over the place," Baker said, but noted the defendant had no trouble remembering what he'd done and was able to answer questions coherently.

"He thought it was a big conspiracy," the detective testified. "He said he thought everything would change with the election of Donald Trump."

Dallastown Nursing Center staff attend a candlelight vigil in remembrance of their co-worker Diana Ziegler, 25, at Stone Ledge Park near her home in Jackson Township, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Police say Ziegler, who was 24 weeks pregnant and expecting a girl, was attacked and killed by her husband, John Ziegler III, on Friday. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He didn't appear to be angry at Diana Ziegler about anything and kept saying things like, "I can't believe what I did" and "she didn't deserve this," according to Baker.

Northern Regional Detective Robert Ryman also testified Friday, and under cross-examination by defense attorney Jay Abom said he didn't see John Ziegler express any anger toward Diana Ziegler.

Questioned actions: Ryman said John Ziegler asked him whether he had done "the right thing." He wasn't crying, and was cooperative and acting "very normal," according to Ryman.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Johnson briefly took the witness stand to say he'd performed an autopsy Jan. 30 on Diana Ziegler and determined she died from multiple sharp-force trauma, inflicted by "a sharp, heavy object."

VIDEO: Candlelight vigil for Diana Ziegler

Johnson also said he estimated the fetus was 24 or 25 weeks along.

The Zieglers' 2-year-old son was home when his mother was killed and was unhurt, according to police.

Abom declined comment after the hearing, and specifically declined to discuss whether he's preparing for a defense of mental infirmity.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.