The mother of Amanda Elizabeth Schmitt, the Altoona native murdered in Mill Creek Township, Erie County, earlier this month, has filed a civil lawsuit against the suspected perpetrator, Amanda’s husband, John P. Grazioli, who remains in prison awaiting further hearing in the pending criminal prosecution.
Grazioli, 44, was arrested by Mill Creek police on March 8 after he allegedly shot his wife, a school teacher, as she slept in bed. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
The husband, who left a note indicating he also intended to kill himself, instead drove to St. Peter Cathedral in downtown Erie where he asked for a priest.
He told the Rev. Michael Polinek outside of confession that he had killed his wife and had intended to kill himself, according to multiple news reports.
The priest convinced him to call police.
The motive for the killing of Grazioli’s wife remains unclear, according to Mill Creek Township Lt. Mike Little.
There has been a great deal of speculation about what might have driven Grazioli, the CEO of Grazioli Investment Management, allegedly to kill his wife of less than six months.
He was involved in a heated custody dispute with a former wife of 18 years, Erica Grazioli, but in sifting through the evidence so far, that may not have been the motive behind the killing.
Little said police are leaning toward possible financial issues as the motive.
Little said the answer may lie with phone records and evidence collected through a search warrant that police have just received and have started to review.
He said police have a great deal of information to look at before settling on a reason why Grazioli may have killed his wife.
Meanwhile, the mother of Amanda Schmitt, Denise Katz, who lives in Lake Ariel, near Scranton, on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against Grazioli seeking financial damages as a way to keep the pressure on the suspect, according to her attorney, Adam S. Barrist of Bala Cynwyd.
The lawsuit states that the mother is suffering “extreme emotional and psychological pain and agony” as a result of Amanda’s violent death.
The lawsuit asks in excess of $50,000 damages on each of five counts.
Two of the counts, one on behalf of the mother and the second on behalf of Amanda’s estate (Katz is the administratrix), are based on Grazioli’s negligence: his failure to care for and protect his wife.
A third count asks damages under Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act, which allows beneficiaries to collect damages.
Pennsylvania’s Survival Act is the legal basis for a fourth count, which allows beneficiaries damages for victim’s lost earnings.
The fifth count, listing both the mother and the estate, seeks punitive damages or whatever additional financial relief may be ordered by a judge.
Barrist said the estate is unaware at this time of Grazioli’s financial assets, but if a judgment is obtained, records to indicate the extent of his resources will be subpoenaed.
The mother and her attorney have the “utmost confidence” in the Erie County district attorney to bring justice to the case, said Barrist, but he stated, the civil lawsuit was filed within days of the crime because “we want to exert as much pressure as possible on the defendant.”
He said it was hard to imagine “a more cowardly and appalling act than killing one’s wife.”
Amanda Schmitt, the daughter of Thomas Schmitt of Altoona and Mrs. Katz, was a 2004 graduate of Altoona Area High School and an honors graduate of Slippery Rock University.
Her obituary in the Altoona Mirror stated she loved teaching, had a passion for animals and was a fitness enthusiast.
A media article on March 10 quoted longtime friend Kim Meloy as saying of Schmitt’s death: “It’s hard to put into words. We’re all sad to have lost such a dear friend and bright light in our lives. She was the most beautiful person, inside and out, in any room, and we’ll really miss her every day.”