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Boyfriend Charged with Homicide in Pennsylvania Woman’s 2018 Disappearance


Authorities formally charged a man long suspected in his girlfriend’s disappearance and presumed death. Thomas Stanko, 52, faces a count each of criminal homicide, reckless burning or exploding, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse, authorities announced in a press conference on Thursday.

Victim Cassandra Gross, 51, was last seen in the city of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 2018. The next day, her vehicle was found burned in Unity Township. Her dog, blind and diabetic, was discovered wandering nearby.

Authorities have never located her remains, but they long believed Gross to be dead. Her personal finances, including a credit card and 401k, remain untouched, according to a Jan. 22, 2019 profile on her disappearance by TribLIVE. The only activity on her bank account were automatic transactions. She was declared dead after being missing for nine months.

Gross’ mother and son both said that Stanko, who worked as a landscaper at the missing woman’s condominium complex, stalked, harassed, and abused her, according to the outlet.

“They were dating on and off, and towards the end it became pretty volatile,” her son Brandon Diebold said.

Since the disappearance, Stanko got in trouble as a convicted felon found to be illegally possessing guns. During the search for Gross, investigators turned up 17 firearms at Stanko’s property and a storage unit he was renting. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in July. That left open the question of his alleged involvement in Gross’ disappearance.

“I thought he should get a lot more for 17 guns, three that were stolen, and a barrel full of ammo but the law is the law,” Cassandra’s mother Kathe Gross told WTAE in a July report. “That’s off my plate. The next thing is the murder charge.”

She voiced impatience with how long authorities were taking to press charges in Cassandra’s disappearance.

“I don’t care if you take him to trial, and he’s found innocent. I want him guilty. He is guilty,” she reportedly said. “But if he’s found innocent, it’s still closure. It’s as much as I can do within the law.”

“We anticipate filing criminal homicide charges against him for her death,” Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan said in court during a December 2020 hearing, according to TribLIVE. “We will file them when the time is right.”

That time, investigators say, is now. Stanko is locked up at the Westmoreland County Prison.

The criminal complaint against the defendant reportedly said that troopers found Gross’ burned possessions at the home of Stanko’s mother.

[Screenshot via WTAE]

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