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Carbon County man, girlfriend try to kill his grandmother, police say

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 26 2012 05:23:47 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 19 2012 05:07:28 AM CDT

Police: Man enlisted girlfriend in plot to kill grandmother

EAST PENN TWP., Pa. -

His grandparents raised him, so why did a Carbon Co. man allegedly plot to murder them? The bizarre crime happened in the tiny town of Ashfield, near Lehighton. According to investigators, money and drugs may be at the heart of this incident.

Other than the occasional car and a few roosters, Blue Mountain Road is usually pretty peaceful.

"This is a really nice neighborhood, and it's a really good neighborhood," said resident Denise Rhyder.

But inside Jake Wertman's house, police believe he and his girlfriend plotted to kill his own grandparents.

"I can't imagine that," said Rhyder, who has known the family for two decades. "I cannot imagine that."

Wertman and girlfriend Amber Steigerwalt are now charged with several counts of assault. According to troopers, the pair hid inside a dark kitchen on Monday night, armed with knives. They said Steigerwalt stabbed Wetrman's grandmother, Marge, twice in the neck.

The victim fought back, though. According to court papers, Marge Wertman tried to choke Steigerwalt before attempting to dial 911. After that, police said Jake Wertman waited an hour to take his grandmother to the hospital.

"I don't know how badly they would ever need money that they -- that he could do that to her," said Rhyder.

State Police said Wertman wanted to collect his inheritance.

No one answered at the Wertmans' house Wednesday afternoon, but according to an arrest affidavit, troopers found a "large amount of drug paraphernalia" inside. The affidavit says Steigerwalt admitted to taking meth and heroin residue just before the attack.

"The Werkmans are great people with Jake, and they did a lot more than most people would do, and took care of him most of his life," said Rhyder. "He was more like their son than like their grandson."

Marge Werkman was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, but has since been released. Her grandson and his girlfriend were each given $300,000 bond.