Unsolved Cases: Joseph Krainc Jr.
There have been no arrests in the murder of the owner of a Ross Township beer distributor more than five years ago.
Sheli Heller does something that few people do. Heller works every day in the same building—sometimes just feet away—from the exact spot where her husband was fatally wounded in what police believe was an apparent robbery attempt.
Minutes later, Krainc lie dying in the distributor's parking lot—his killer, gone, and so far, unknown.
"He chased them out," said Heller, who goes by her maiden name, "and he collapsed in front of the building.
"But he was shot inside of our building. Everything leads to believe that it was a robbery attempt. It seems there was thought and effort into when and how they did it. They did it right at closing time, on a busy Friday night, when there would be the most cash."
Heller said that the criminal or criminals tried to discourage anyone from entering the parking lot.
"They took the price signs out of the yard and created a barrier in the driveway to make it appear the store had closed for the night," she said. "They didn't want to be caught."
Allegheny County homicide Detective Anthony Perry has been working the case almost from the beginning and admits that it's one of the most frustrating that he's come across.
"We really don't have any leads or anything like that," Detective Perry said. "There's nowhere for us to go.
"We're hoping that someone will come forward with information. Any homicide—there's no statue of limitations. It's not closed until there is a trial."
Primarily, the murder of Krainc suffers from a lack of witnesses.
"No one saw the actual crime," Heller said. "There were people who either left the store right before the crime or arrived right after the criminal had left.
"The more people are reminded about it, maybe it will prompt someone to start talking."
Perry said that physical evidence at the homicide scene points to just one person being involved. He also said that the shooter may be behind bars for another crime by now—or even dead.
"That's quite possible. To do something this heinous—this probably isn't their first rodeo. It's quite possible they wanted money for drugs, but I have no idea what the motive is.
"But often, in these types of cases, drugs are involved. Drugs turn people into something they are not."
While Heller is willing to talk about Krainc's case in hopes that it could result in a lead, she is also moving on, running her late husband's business and raising their two children.
"I want justice to be served," she said, "but at the same time, maybe this is still unsolved because God had a plan—that me or my kids couldn't handle the ordeal of a trial. Who knows?
"I finally realized this is my job—to take care of my family and run this business and not necessarily find out who did this to Joe."
Perry said that it remains his responsibility to bring Krainc's killer to justice.
"We never give up hope," he said. "Any tip, no matter how far-fetched, we will go and investigate and run into the ground to make sure there's nothing else we can get out of that tip.
"You want to do justice for the family. It's not like on TV; sometimes, you don't find someone. It seems as though Joe was truly an innocent victim."
If you have any information regarding this unsolved case, call Allegheny County police at 412-473-3000.
This article originally appeared on the NorthHills Patch.
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