Forty-eight-year-old Kenneth Patterson is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of 57-year-old Diane Corado, his ex-girlfriend.
She has not been seen since Dec. 19, when Bucks County authorities say Patterson forced his way into her Fairless Hills apartment and kidnapped her and another woman in Corado's sport utility vehicle. The other woman was soon released and Patterson was later arrested at a motel in Maple Shade, N.J. The blood-spattered SUV was found in nearby Camden, but Corado has not been found.
Marc Rickles, the attorney for Corado's 29-year-old son, Scott Melnick, said the ruling last week by Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Theodore Fritsch will come as a relief to the family, which has been unable to pay her bills, close out her bank accounts or get into her apartment to collect her personal property.
Officials say petitions to declare someone legally dead are very rare, but without such a ruling, relatives must wait seven years to settle a missing person's estate.
Information from: Bucks County Courier Times, http://www.phillyburbs.com