YEADON, Pa. — Police have reopened the investigation into the 1993 death of Joseph Doyle as his widow stands charged with the murder of her third husband in New Jersey.
Loretta Tokash Doyle Burroughs, 61, who grew up on Lafayette Avenue in Collingdale and is a graduate of Archbishop Prendergast High School, is being held in the Atlantic County jail on $2 million bail, charged with the murder of Daniel Burroughs in Mays Landing.
Prosecutors in Atlantic County allege she stabbed Burroughs to death in August 2007. She is accused of placing his body parts into plastic containers and taking them with her when she moved several times.
Authorities said they made the gruesome discovery May 17 in a closet at her Hampshire Drive home in Ventnor while serving a search warrant. Doyle Burroughs was in the process of moving to a home in Villas in Cape May County, authorities said.
A native of Glenolden, Daniel Burroughs had dated his future wife when he attended Monsignor Bonner High School in the late ’60s.
Daniel and Loretta Burroughs were living on Leipzig Avenue in Mays Landing in 2007 when he disappeared. Family members said Loretta Burroughs was angry that her husband wanted to retire to Florida, which would have meant moving away from her daughter and grandchildren.
She never reported her 66-year-old husband missing, insisting he left her for another woman and moved to Florida. She divorced him not long after his disappearance.
It was Burroughs’ son who went to authorities in Hamilton Township and filed a missing-person report. Daniel Burroughs had not been seen or heard from since.
The break in the case came in February, when Burroughs’ brother contacted the Cold Case Unit at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office with some new information.
Loretta Doyle Burroughs was now living in the home in Ventnor. The mother of a grown daughter from her first marriage and the grandmother of four, neighbors said they were unaware of her past.
In 1996, before her marriage to Burroughs, she was convicted of embezzling more than $470,000 from a Yeadon electrical product company and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Her attorney at the time, Joseph Delsordo, of Media, Pa., told the judge she was a gambling addict who had lived a good life “until this happened.”
She also was convicted and served time for stealing money from a car dealership in New Jersey.
When Daniel Burroughs’ remains were discovered in Ventnor, it raised new questions about the death of her second husband, Joseph Doyle, who died in 1993 when he and Loretta were living on the 400 block of Fern Street in Yeadon.
Whatever information New Jersey authorities received last month from Burroughs’ brother, it prompted them to contact Yeadon police about the death of Joseph Doyle 20 years ago.
“We were contacted by investigators in New Jersey regarding the death of Joe Doyle, the second husband of Loretta,” Yeadon Detective Sgt. David Splain said. “We re-opened the case within the last month.”
Yeadon Detective Joseph Houghton has been working with a task force made up of Hamilton Township detectives, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and New Jersey State Police, looking into Loretta Borough’s past.
“At the time of her arrest she was questioned, but provided no additional information about Joe Doyle’s death,” Splain said.
Authorities said Doyle’s family has long suspected his widow had something to do with his death, even though the cause of death was officially listed as a heart attack. At the time, his family insisted Doyle did not have a drug problem and could not explain why traces of Percocet and Xanax were found in his system during the autopsy.
The family had been told Doyle overdosed, not a stretch for a man who, according to a nephew Thursday, had been “dabbling in cocaine.” But there were suspicions.
“I thought right away she did something with my uncle,” nephew Charles Lockhart, of Florida, said in a phone interview. “I think everybody thought something, but nobody said nothing. We didn’t want to believe it.”
Lockhart said Joseph and Loretta Doyle would come visit the family when they summered in West Wildwood.
He also remembers Burroughs rushing everyone out after his uncle’s funeral. A short time later, she disappeared.
“Nobody saw anything of her,” Lockhart said.
Some of that likely was because she was sent to federal prison in the embezzlement case.
She also was living in Mays Landing by then, likely because she had returned to her old boyfriend, Daniel Burroughs.
The two grew up together, friend Bob Valiante Sr. said. They had dated when they were young but gone their separate ways. When they got back together, Loretta had two marriages behind her, the first having ended in divorce.
“Her second husband died of an overdose, but his family suspected her,” Joyce Valiante had said outside the courtroom last Friday, shortly after Loretta Doyle Burroughs had her first appearance on the murder charges. “But I’m sure they looked into that.”
Loretta Doyle Burroughs’ family has described her as a doting grandmother who was very close to her daughter, who had absolutely no inkling of her mother’s dark secret.
-- The Delaware County Times and Press staff writer Lynda Cohen