Lehigh Valley

DA: Officials to investigate whether proper police protocol was followed in Palmer Township homicide

Arrest warrant issued for homicide suspect

PALMER TWP., Pa. - Authorities are still looking for a man charged in his wife's death in Palmer Township, and now there are questions being raised about the investigation.

Police were called to the couple's Palmer Township home the night she was killed, saw a man believed to be Edgar Himel, then left, the Northampton County district attorney said Wednesday.

Officials are investigating whether proper police protocol was followed before Penny VanTassel-Himel was found.

VanTassel-Himel, 66, was found shot to death in her home in the 100 block of Orchard Drive early Sunday morning after she didn't show up for church and her pastor requested a welfare check, officials said.

Her death was ruled a homicide, and Palmer Township police named her husband, Edgar Himel, as a suspect.

Investigators said during a news conference Wednesday that Penny called 911 the night she was killed.

During the call, placed at 2:18 a.m. on July 4, the woman told dispatchers there was an emergency at her home, confirmed her address, then the line went silent and eventually disconnected, according to court paperwork.

Two Palmer Township police officers went to her home, said Northampton County DA John Morganelli.

"The home was checked and found secure," court documents state.

One of the officers was using a flashlight through the front windows of the home and saw a man standing in the bedroom where Penny's body was later found, Morganelli said.

The man, believed to be Edgar Himel, did not respond to the officers and would not come to the door, officials said.

The officers never made contact with Edgar nor Penny, and left.

Morganelli says the officers who responded to the call are currently out on sick leave and vacation. When they return to duty, the department will investigate whether proper protocol was followed.

VanTassel-Himel's family members say they want to know why police went to her home the night her husband allegedly killed her but didn't go inside.

Vivian Elam, Penny's daughter, said "He needs to turn himself in. We...really don't understand what happened or what drove him to do something Like that. My mom has never done anything to him."

Penny's sister, Dr. Nona Edwards-Thomas, says she and other family members became concerned when Penny hadn't contacted them on the Fourth of July.

She says she spoke with Edgar hours after he allegedly killed her sister.

"I called him to find out where he was at. He was driving. I asked him where was he going and he told me he didn't know. As I said well where is Penny and he says I don't know," Edwards-Thomas said.

Himel, 80, may be driving a dark green 2019 Nissan Rogue with the license plate GHV-0051, police said. He is considered armed and dangerous.


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