This article was originally published on GoErie.com on March 9, 2018
Even before police arrested a Millcreek Township man in an investigation into the shooting death of his wife, the man confessed to the killing — to a Roman Catholic priest he sought out in the rectory of St. Peter Cathedral in downtown Erie.
The odd turn of events was just one episode in what turned out to be a strange afternoon for Millcreek and Erie police.
What started with a tip about a suicidal husband killing his wife in the affluent Whispering Woods subdivision in Millcreek ended with Millcreek and Erie police handcuffing the man at the rectory at St. Peter Cathedral, where the man, fleeing his house, had parked his white Mercedes SUV before searching for a priest.
Millcreek police on Thursday evening charged the man, John P. Grazioli, a 44-year-old financial manager, with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and firearms to be carried without a license. Grazioli was arraigned and was placed in the Erie County Prison at about 10:35 p.m. Thursday.
Grazioli is in the Erie County Prison without bond because he is accused of homicide.
“He was a little distraught and, after a moment, he pretty much just said I need to tell you that I killed my wife and I am going to go home and kill myself,” said the priest, the Rev. Michael Polinek. “After a little while, I was able to convince him for the sake of the rest of his family and other people that it would be a good idea to call the police — 911.″
Grazioli married his 31-year-old wife in October, based on public records linked to the couple’s residence. Police did not immediately release her name.
Millcreek police responded to the couple’s residence, at 5843 Forest Crossing in Whispering Woods, off Grubb Road, sometime after 3 p.m. on Thursday after officers received information that a man said he killed somebody and was suicidal. Police quickly developed other information that the victim was the man’s wife, and police found the woman’s body at the house. Unclear on Thursday was how long she had been dead.
Police in Erie started looking for Grazioli near St. Peter Cathedral at 3:19 p.m., after tracking his cell phone, which police said he apparently left in his SUV. He was taken into custody shortly before 4 p.m., and Millcreek police described him as a person of interest in the woman’s death.
Grazioli was handcuffed as Erie and Millcreek police officers led him out a door on the cathedral’s south side, across from a motel on West 10th Street, and Millcreek police drove him to the township police station.
“The police came and they did what they needed to do and it ended very peacefully,″ Polinek said. “I called 911 and they said, ‘Does he have a weapon?’ He shook his head that he did. I said, ‘Where is it?’ I believe he said ‘It’s in my coat.’ I said, ‘Why don’t we take your coat.’
“I took his coat and set it on the floor and that way, I was between him and the coat. I never looked in the coat. It felt like there was something in it. The police came and took it, but there was no threat.″
Polinek said “911 was on the line the whole time and he was aware of it, I was aware of it, the 911 operator was aware of it. We walked outside the parlor doors and the police took him into custody. There was no struggle, there was no incident.″
Polinek said his discussion with Grazioli, including the admission about the death of his wife, lasted about 20 minutes, with Grazioli on the phone with 911 much of the time. Polinek said Grazioli never asked to receive the sacrament of confession, but wanted to confess the killing.
Polinek described the suspect’s demeanor as “very sad.″
“He was emotional and sad,″ Polinek said. “He was crying and emotional.″
The cause of his wife’s death was not immediately known, but Millcreek police said she was shot. It is Erie County’s first homicide of 2018.
The county’s chief deputy coroner, Nick Rekitt, was at the residence in Whispering Woods at about 5 p.m. Millcreek police were also preparing a search warrant for the residence, which the man bought for $340,000 in May 2016, according to county property records. Rekitt said early Thursday evening he would not release any information until he confirmed the identity of the victim and had notified family.
Erie police who responded to St. Peter Cathedral locked it down, along with the nearby Cathedral Preparatory School, Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said. Erie police cordoned off the area during the search, and the Cathedral Prep lockdown was brief, Principal Jim Smith said.
He said a handful of students were in the building while police converged on the cathedral. The lockdown was lifted once the suspect was arrested.
Grazioli’s SUV was parked in a lot on the north side of the cathedral. Millcreek police towed it to the township police station and plan to serve a search warrant on it, Millcreek police Sgt. Anthony Chimera said.
Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri said Thursday night that his office is in communication with the Millcreek police. He said his office is “doing things that are part of the investigation,” but declined to comment further.