Tribute concert to remember slain pregnant woman

It's been almost a year since Diana Ziegler's husband allegedly killed her and her unborn child in their Jackson Township home.

"Time has helped a little bit," said Ziegler's father, Gerald "Jerry" Heilner.

"Things jump up and hit you in odd times and odd ways," he said, talking about how normal, everyday occurrences like seeing a silver Subaru Forester — the car his daughter drove — tend to affect him.

Diana Ziegler, allegedly killed by her husband John Ziegler III in January, 2016, is honored at a tribute concert to raise awareness for domestic violence on Jan 5, 2018.

John D. Ziegler III told detectives he killed his pregnant wife with a sword last Jan. 27 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.

Diana Ziegler, 25, was six months pregnant with the couple's second child, testimony indicated — a daughter they planned to name Charlotte.

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

John Ziegler, 32, was charged with homicide and homicide of an unborn child, and is being held without bail in York County Prison pending trial.

Heilner decided to honor his daughter with a tribute concert on Friday, Jan. 5 — almost a year from her untimely death.

Out of tragedy: The idea came to him last spring.

"My former wife contracted (multiple sclerosis) in 2007, and we lost her to MS in 2008," he said. "They decided to play a Christmas concert and have proceeds go to the MS Society."

Heilner, who plays in several musical groups including the York Symphony Orchestra, the Lancaster Trombone Quartet and the Lancaster Brass Quintet, decided to organize his own concert for Ziegler, with proceeds benefiting the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Diana Ziegler also was "involved in musical activities, singing and playing the cello for school productions," according to a news release.

"Twelfth Night of Christmas: A Trombone Choir Concert," will feature a large eight-part trombone choir performing Christmas carols and the central piece, "Twelfth Night," to celebrate the 12th night of Christmas — which falls on the date of the concert.

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Diana Ziegler (Heilner)
Diana Ziegler, allegedly killed by her husband John Ziegler III in January, 2016, is honored at a tribute concert to raise awareness for domestic violence on Jan 5, 2018.

The trombone players are coming together as a pickup group — most of them from groups that have played with Heilner.

It will be free, but guests will have the opportunity to make a donation to the coalition.

The executive director of the organization will speak briefly at intermission to raise awareness about domestic violence.

A community issue: "I think it’s something that has been treated as a private household issue, but (it's) a community safety issue," said Julie Bancroft, director of public affairs for the coalition.

Bancroft said many of the recent mass shootings are related to family violence, and with the "Me Too" movement and more dialogue around sexual violence issues, it also is  important to raise awareness of how domestic violence affects the community.

More:Yorkers react to Charlottesville violence

"A lot of times folks don’t realize that it does affect all ages, genders (and) socioeconomic backgrounds," she said.

Ziegler was one of 102 deaths resulting from domestic violence in Pennsylvania last year, Bancroft said.

Fifty-six percent of those deaths were gun-related, so the coalition is working on legislation to help protect victims from gun violence.

Bancroft said a domestic violence/homicide prevention bill (Senate Bill 501) would require anyone convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to turn over their guns within 48 hours to a licensed gun dealer or law enforcement.

Seeking help is the "most dangerous time" for a victim, she said, and under current law, the abuser has 60 days to turn the gun over — and it can be given to family or friends.

One year later: "There’s been a very, very heavy cold blanket thrown over me and all of us," Heilman said of his daughter's death.

"(We) haven’t come up on a year yet, and the fact that we’re coming up on January makes it difficult," said his wife, Lisa Heilner.

Jerry Heilner has been seeing a counselor to help him through the loss of his daughter, and his counselor said it was important to be around a lot of people. 

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He said he is most looking forward to being surrounded by friends at the concert.

Nicola and Tracy Burke, who will be playing in the trombone choir, attend Derry Presbyterian Church, where the event will be held.

The Heilners were looking for a location to host the concert without cost, and "they were kind and said we would be honored to have you," Jerry Heilner said of those at the church.

Located in Hershey, between Lancaster and Harrisburg, the church is close to home for the Heilners, who live in Elizabethtown.

Jerry and Lisa Heilner shared with as many people in the community as they could — from promoting the event on Facebook, in the media, on posters and in businesses, music stores and restaurants.

Many businesses owned by friends and family gave corporate sponsorships, which have been "significant, generous (and) humbling," Jerry Heilner said.

The concert program includes a quote from composer Leonard Bernstein, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

If You Go:

What: Twelfth Night of Christmas: A Trombone Choir Concert

When: 7-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5

Where: Derry Presbyterian Church, 248 E. Derry Road, Hershey

More information: Facebook event page: A concert in memory of Diana Heilner