After seven years of a homicide left unsolved, a Penn State Beaver student created a video for her communications class that may someday aid future police with the mystery.
Every year, Communications Professor at Penn State Beaver John Chapin assigns a service learning assignment for his Communications 282: Television Field Production class. These projects can range from campus tour videos to police training videos, Chapin said.
“The projects are actually being used, and you can see the work in action,” he said.
At the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, the Beaver County Assistant Chief Detective Andrew Gall approached Chapin about creating a video that could preserve the memories of a cold case, Chapin said.
Detective Gall could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.
Chapin has worked with the Beaver County Police on other videos, unrelated to the case, for about eight years, Chapin said. Chapin said when he suggested the assignment in the class, Nancy Paoletti , 51, requested it.
“It was going to be made,” Paoletti (senior-communications) said. “I asked for it and I was given it.”
The video centers on the homicide of Anna Rocknick, 94, that happened at about 2 a.m. Christmas Eve of 2005 in Harmony Twp.
According to the Harmony Township police report, an intruder broke into Rocknick’s house, and when unable to find Rocknick’s money, awoke her.
Rocknick suffered blunt force trauma from the intruder, who beat her over the head several times with a metal object, Harmony Township Police Sgt. Jim Essek said.
When the police first arrived on the scene, Rocknick was in her living room bleeding from the head, according to the report.
According to the report, “the front door was pried open, and several rooms in the house were ransacked.”
Rocknick told the ambulance attendants and police “that the devil did this,” Chapin said. But it was not until later when Rocknick was in the hospital that she died from brain swelling, Paoletti said.
The case was “upsetting” for the community because no one was expecting her to die from the head injury and many knew her from living in the area, Paoletti said.
There were about 100 suspects and the police followed many leads, but no one was charged, Chapin said. Rocknick described the intruder as a “white male, tall, with a dark hood” to the police, according to the report.
“It is a case that weighs on the mind,” Chapin said.
Paoletti said the detective wanted a video that documents the memories of the first responders that were on the scene. The video was not made for public viewing, Paoletti said.
“[The video is] a way to retell the story in [witnesses’] own words for when they are no longer available,” Chapin said.
The majority of the police that first responded to the scene are on the verge of retirement, Paoletti said. The video serves as a way for future officers investigating the case to know what it was like to be at the crime scene, Paoletti said.
In total, there are 12 interviews in the video, including the ambulance crew, the Pennsylvania District Attorney, detectives from Beaver County Detective Bureau and police officers from the Harmony Twp. Police Department, Chapin said.
The interviews were mainly witnesses telling their experience of being there, Paoletti said. None of the people interviewed were under oath or involved with a defense attorney, so the video cannot be used as evidence, Paoletti said.
Additionally, the video and interviews are influenced by opinion, Paoletti said.
Paoletti said she believes she was entrusted with the assignment because she is an adult student that is involved in the honors option. She added that she felt passionate about the assignment because she wanted to help the community.
She also has an interest in stories that are police and crime-related, she said.
Chapin said it is important to have someone with a very strong work ethic to complete a project like this, which he believes Paoletti possesses.
The interviews were conducted in a studio at Penn State Beaver Campus, Chapin said.
Paoletti said she included the 911 tape with the subtitles that were copied from the transcript. She used Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 to edit the videos together to help the flow of the story, she said.
The District Attorney provided the case file used, and Paoletti returned the documents after she was finished, she said.
Now — thanks to connections she was able to make with the police department — Paoletti said she is involved with other police-related videos. This includes working with an economy police department, and completing a copy editing internship with a police department.
Chapin said for Paoletti’s next assignments she will not be limited to studios at Penn State Beaver but will be able to go to the different sights and work on a range of cases.