It was a sight so upsetting that the killer put a sheet over the victim’s body.
Family and friends had not heard from Roberta Rybinski for about three days, so they contacted police.
When officers entered the 51-year-old woman’s Town of Tonawanda apartment late Tuesday afternoon, they found her sprawled on the living room couch, a portrait of Jesus Christ on the wall above her, a sheet covering her body. The couch, a witness said, had stab marks in it.
After Rybinski was killed, someone ransacked her modest apartment, stealing many of her possessions, including a television and the cables attached to it. Her light blue car was also missing.
On Friday, police said no arrests have been made and declined to say how or why she was killed.
Neighbors recalled a fierce argument a week ago between Rybinski and her boyfriend, who often stayed at the Newell Avenue apartment, just off Delaware Avenue and a short distance from the City of Tonawanda border.
“They were arguing in the street around 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon. You could hear them screaming at each other. Then she got in her car and drove away and he walked up to Delaware Avenue,” said a neighbor woman. “The boyfriend walked past me. I was going to the store. I saw him standing in front of the pizza place and she pulled up in her car and they started arguing again.”
The neighbor, whose name was withheld because of concerns for her safety, said the boyfriend again walked past her and said, “Good morning,” though it was afternoon.
A day after Rybinski’s body was found, the woman said her grown son was out walking their dog and found a knife, about 10 inches long, in a grassy area behind Rybinski’s apartment and turned it over to police.
Tonawanda Police Capt. Joseph F. Carosi said he could not comment on the manner in which Rybinski was killed, but confirmed that police went to the apartment at about 4 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a request to check on her.
“We were called by family and friends who were concerned about her welfare because they were not able to reach her,” Carosi said Friday. “Once inside the residence, we discovered the body. An autopsy determined it was a homicide.”
Several neighbors in the Newell Heights apartment complex said they remain concerned that the killer has not been caught and that it took three days for police to release any information on the killing.
“A low profile was kept to maintain the integrity of the investigation and avoid undue publicity that would hamper the investigation,” Carosi said. “Detectives are investigating and following up on multiple leads.”
The captain asked that anyone with information on the slaying call the town police tipline at 879-6606.
Soon after uniformed police officers discovered the body, detectives took over the scene. Neighbors said the investigators were dressed in protective Tyvek suits. Rybinski’s body was taken from her first-floor apartment at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to neighbor Tom O’Connell.
Newell Heights consists of 72 apartments with four in each of the complex’s two-story, brick buildings in a neatly kept neighborhood that residents described as safe and generally crime free.
Rybinski, the mother of a young son, had moved into her apartment several months ago, neighbors and friends said.
“She was beautiful, graceful and always had a smile,” said Kevin Noonan, a longtime acquaintance. “She was quick to laugh, had a sweet personality and adored her son. People who knew her are in shock and very disturbed by this news. Roberta felt things very deeply in her life and she lived it with an intensity.”
Grief over Rybinski’s death was also expressed by loved ones on Facebook.
“I don’t know where to begin,” a nephew wrote. “It’s very hard to comprehend and process all this. It’s heart-wrenching. I was thinking all this was all just a dream. It’s a worse nightmare. My number one aunt who would always put her family and others first before herself. I was her #1 favorite kid growing up.”
“She used to watch me while my mom Jackie Rybinski Wert and my dad would be at work. She used to take me everywhere as a kid even into my adult years and always made sure I was always happy … I will cherish every single one of those memories. She was a very open and caring person. It’s not going to be the same with out you, Aunt Roberta. We all genuinely miss you very, very much. God be with you.”
Friends on Facebook say a Mass will be offered Tuesday at Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church, 180 George Urban Blvd., Cheektowaga, but a parish spokesman said he was not at liberty to say what time the Mass would be celebrated.
The last homicide in the town was on Aug. 30 when Anthony L. Stallworth, 34, of the town’s Sheridan-Parkside neighborhood, was gunned down.
Town police and Buffalo police later determined that two men believed to be involved in the shooting were separately killed in September and October in revenge for Stallworth’s slaying.