Loved ones and friends of the 33-year-old mother of three who went missing Friday have all met their worst fear.
Jessica Padgett, of Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, was found dead Wednesday, and her stepfather, Gregory R. Graf, 53, has been charged with the murder.
“Unfortunately, we have sad news to announce today,” Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said, according to The Morning Call. “Jessica Padgett is deceased. She is the victim of a homicide.”
Padgett went missing after she left her job around 1 p.m. at Duck Duck Goose Child Care in Northampton, Pennsylvania. Police began focusing on Graf after he gave inconsistent statements following Padgett’s disappearance, and have since determined that the motive for the slaying appears to be sexual assault.
Morganelli said her stepfather admitted to shooting Padgett and burying her body behind a shed on his Covered Bridge Road property in Allen Township, where Graf lives with Padgett’s mother. They operate a fence company at the site.
Graf’s wife was away in Florida last week, “giving him an opportunity to commit the crime … in secret,” Morganelli said.
Graf was described as an avid hunter with several firearms in the house.
“We are devastated by the loss of Jessica,” the victim’s family said in a statement. “She was a beautiful, vibrant young woman who was beloved by her family and friends. The world shines less bright today.”
Graf is being held without bail. It was not immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
• With additional reporting by the ASSOCIATED PRESS