Coroner identifies Jackson Twp. woman killed in sword attack

Christopher Dornblaser
  • A 31-year-old Jackson Twp. man is accused of killing his pregnant wife with a sword.
  • John D. Ziegler, is charged with criminal homicide and cirminal homicide of an infant.
  • He remains in York County Prison.

Police say a Jackson Township man killed his 25-year-old wife and her unborn child with a sword late Friday afternoon.

Diana and John Ziegler.

Northern York County Regional Police said John D. Ziegler III killed his wife about 4 p.m. while their 2-year-old son was in the home with them. The boy was not hurt and was turned over to the York County Office of Children, Youth and Family.

York County Coroner Pam Gay's office identified the victim Saturday morning as Diana Ziegler and said she was killed at 1157 Ledge Drive. An autopsy is scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown.

John Ziegler, 31, of 1157 Ledge Drive, is charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child, according to police.

Incident: Lt. David Lash said at the scene officers were dispatched to the couple's residence on Ledge Drive about 4:10 p.m. for a report of a physical attack "involving an edged weapon."

The officer "located a male at the scene who indicated he had done physical harm to a female, again, with an edged weapon," Lash said.

Police said the weapon, a "scimitar-styled" sword, was found near Diana Ziegler.

She was found dead on a deck to the rear of the property, he said.

John Ziegler III

Lash said John Ziegler was taken into custody without incident and transported to central booking for arraignment on a charge of criminal homicide.

John Ziegler had called 911 and reported what had happened, and he waited with his son for police to arrive on scene, according to officials.

According to charging documents, John Ziegler was found outside his home, with blood on his hands, shortly after he called police. He appeared to be anxious when he was found, according to court documents.

Charges: The officer entered the Zieglers' home and found Diana Ziegler near the rear of the deck. She had suffered multiple blows to her head and neck area, to the extent that "death was certain," according to police. A black sword, about four inches wide, was next to Diana Ziegler's body, according police.

Additionally, blood and skull fragments were found near the deck area, documents state.

Police say she was 24 weeks pregnant with a baby girl, who also died from the trauma of the attack.

About 9 p.m., police spoke with John Ziegler, who admitted to striking his wife up to three times with a sword, documents state.

He was arraigned on the charges Saturday morning and was remanded to York County Prison without bail.

Northern York County Regional Police are still investigating.

"What led to (the attack) and what occurred during it is still under investigation," Lash said at the scene.

Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact them at 717-292-3647 or through 911.

Reaction: Neighbor Chrystal Bixler said nothing like this has happened before in the development.

The neighborhood consists of numerous townhouses as part of Jackson Heights.

Bixler recalled an incident from many years before, where a resident had apparently barricaded himself in his home. Coincidentally, that happened in the same area of the neighborhood where police were investigating Friday night, she said.

Other than that, Bixler said the development hasn't seen a lot of incidents.

On Friday, Bixler said a friend had heard on a police scanner that a dangerous situation was unfolding in her neighborhood, and Bixler later heard that someone had been killed.

She said she saw the police tape go up. "You knew right away," she added.

Bixler said she had been getting calls from friends and family asking if she is OK.

"We're a tight-knit little community," she said.

The Zieglers have lived there since about November, according to Bixler.

Bixler and two other neighbors who live nearby said they rarely saw the family.

Antonio Solis, who lives a few doors down from the home, said he only saw Diana Ziegler once before.

Solis has lived there for two years and said he was surprised that something like this happened in his neighborhood, which he called a "good place" to live.

A few houses down from Solis was Nadine Brunner, who moved to the neighborhood from the Baltimore area about eight months ago. She said she never saw Diane Ziegler or the child, not even at the playground located directly in front of the area where police investigated.

"They weren't here long at all," she added.

Like Bixler and Solis, Brunner was surprised that the incident happened in her neighborhood.

"Nothing happens here," she said, adding that that was a bit of a selling point for her when she moved from Maryland.

Despite the incident, she is not nervous about living in her Jackson Township home.

"It happened in their home," Brunner said, adding that it wasn't like someone was shooting up the development.

Brunner and Bixler both thought of the 2-year-old child when they heard what happened.

"The main thing I was worried about was that child," she said.

Bixler shuddered at the thought of what could happen to the child.

"It's just unimaginable," Bixler said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.