Called schizophrenic and homeless by family members, Antoinette Pelzer of Philadelphia has been used to personify the alleged danger awaiting tourists in Atlantic City.
But the story of the Canadian mother and daughter she allegedly stabbed Monday morning has been elusive to police and media.
Nearly two days after Po Lin Wan, 80, and Alice Mei See Leung, 47, were brutally stabbed on a resort street with a 12-inch butcher knife, little was known about them.
Their identies were just released Wednesday, after members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office spent many hours trying to notify next of kin. Media also had no luck uncovering their backgrounds, even in their hometown of Scarborough, Ontario, where they are believed to be members of the Chinese community.
A reporter with Ming Pao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Toronto, said they were having no success in finding the women’s family or anything out about who they were. Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel has not said where they were staying in the city, or how long they had been there.
The details of the attack were clear from the charges.
Wan came to her daughter’s aid as a knife-wielding woman — whom authorities identified as Antoinette Pelzer — attacked her. Wan bled to death after being stabbed in the lower body, hand and shoulder, an autopsy showed. Leung was felled by the attack, and then Pelzer allegedly attempted to grab the woman’s purse off her shoulder, the charges state. When the victim resisted, prosecutors said Pelzer stabbed her more. Leung died of multiple sharp-force injuries, with a puncture to her heart.
Video of the area shows it took just 13 seconds from when the attack started until Atlantic City Police Officer Jacob Abbruscato got the woman to drop her weapon, say law enforcement officials who saw the video.
Pelzer was arrested and the two women were immediately taken for help.
“He did everything by the book,” said city Public Safety Director Willie Glass, himself a retired officer. “The officer did an outstanding job.”
But the attack was one that couldn’t be anticipated, he said.
“It’s difficult, from a law enforcement standpoint, when you have a suspect who has no concern about being apprehended,” he said.
At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, officials touched on the negative attention Atlantic City was getting as a result of the vicious attack. A Philadelphia Daily News headline calling the area a “Tourist Death Trap” was also addressed.
“We spend $150 million for the 'Do AC' campaign — and that one front page wiped it out,” Sixth Ward Councilman Tim Mancuso said.
“For them to attack our (tourism) industry — it’s terrorism to me," Councilman George Tibbitt said.
Meanwhile, City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh asked about the officer.
“I know you’re trained to respond, but you’re human beings, too, so I hope he’s doing what he needs to do … for his mental state," Marsh said.
“Those issues being addressed as we speak,” Glass told him.
Police have been trying to track when Pelzer, 44, arrived in the city and where she was staying. An aunt told the Associated Press that the woman had been homeless since January and suffered from schizophrenia. She blamed the attack on Pelzer’s mental problems.
Information obtained so far indicates she had been in the city about two weeks, but it is not known where she was staying — or how she got here. City officials have previously complained about other towns giving their homeless one-way tickets to Atlantic City, but it is still not clear whether that is the case here.
Pelzer is now in the Atlantic County Justice Facility on $1.5 million full cash bail. She is charged with two counts of murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and robbery.
Pelzer said during her court appearance Tuesday that she would need a public defender. No one has been assigned the case yet.
Staff writer Emily Previti contributed to this report.
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