There’s a birthday card on Dave Petrunak’s office wall from the Denver Blough and Caressa Kovalcik he knew.
The card, playfully picking on the Windber landlord for getting another year older, was signed by a 23-year-old attentive mom who was “like a daughter” and a hard-working 25-year-old man he said always rushed to help when something needed fixed at his 501 19th St. apartment building.
That image of what Petrunak called “model tenants” was shattered by gunfire on Saturday. A domestic assault upstairs from his office claimed Kovalcik, a pregnant mother of an 11-month-old boy.
The shooting left Petrunak with a padlocked second floor apartment and questions that may never be answered.
“What prompts a man to just walk into an apartment, pick up a gun and shoot his girlfriend in the face? It’s a terrible thought,” he said. “It’s almost hard to believe because these were two people we saw almost every day. There was never a sign that something was wrong.”
State police have not commented on what might have prompted Saturday’s shooting.
Petrunak said the couple had been renting from him since March 2013. He and his wife, Rose, said they’d see one or both “nearly every day.” They said they never received a report about the couple fighting at the apartment, let alone witnessed such an incident.
Kovalcik always wore a smile, he added.
“She was a sweetheart, a very, very good mother. Not just to her own child but to her stepchild, too,” Petrunak said, noting Blough also had a child from a previous relationship.
An Indiana County native, Kovalcik worked several jobs until she was about seven months pregnant, Petrunak said. She regularly visited with the couple in their office – almost always with her children beside her – and occasionally brought them cookies, his wife, Rose Petrunak, said.
Blough was originally from Beaverdale, Petrunak said. He worked steadily for a Somerset County asphalt company.
Blough enjoyed sports and hunting, and once mentioned he was careful with his rifle, making sure to keep the weapon and ammunition in separate areas
of the apartment, Petrunak recalled.
“It would snow and he’d be outside in the morning shoveling. He was always the first to step in and help,” Petrunak said, noting he’d often compensate Blough for the help.
Rose Petrunak said she saw Kovalcik early Saturday afternoon. It was a bright sunny day and she was pushing her son in a stroller up 19th Street.
“From everything I saw, these were good people,” Petrunak said.
Still, Dave and Rose Petrunak said they realize they must’ve been missing “something.”
“If there was a problem, Caressa must have been keeping it to herself,” he said.
The Petrunaks said they were not at their business when the shooting occurred. A neighbor told the family he saw Blough in a police cruiser moments after the shooting, repeatedly striking his head against one of the car’s door windows, as if he’d suddenly realized what he’d done, Dave Petrunak said.
“Something went horribly wrong that day,” Rose said. “And the shame is it’s too late to do anything about it. You can’t take it back.”
David Hurst covers Windber for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.