Shannon N. DiTillio boarded a bus last week to be with the love of her life in Myrtle Beach.
It didn’t matter that she and Christopher Kalb had a turbulent relationship or that he had a new woman in his life.
When she packed her bags, the 22-year-old North Tonawanda woman made sure she included a baby photo album of their 16-month-old daughter, Autumn Olivia.
The trip that started with such optimism on DiTillio’s part ended Monday when she was found dead in a vacant lot, shot in the face. On Thursday, police in Horry County, S.C., charged Kalb, 24, with murder.
He had been arrested Wednesday on a domestic violence warrant for allegedly harming another woman.
“Shannon was obsessed with him. They were always instant messaging each other, said Brad Berwick, the fiancé of DiTillio’s mother, Lisa Beiter. “She went to visit Christopher and his girlfriend. They were going to pick her up at the bus station in Myrtle Beach. He played Shannon.”
Her body was found in a lot workers were clearing of debris in Longs, S.C., some 30 miles from Myrtle Beach.
DiTillio was four months pregnant with a son, according to Beiter, who said she was disappointed Kalb was not charged with two counts of murder.
Beiter said police told them that if DiTillio had been 24 weeks into her pregnancy, a second murder charge could have been pursued.
Kalb is not the father of the unborn child, Beiter said.
DiTillio and Kalb had troubles almost from the start when they met about 2½ years ago in North Tonawanda.
“I threw him out more than once because he was hostile,” Berwick said. “He had a swastika tattooed on his right hand between his thumb and forefinger. What does that tell you?”
North Tonawanda Police Chief William Hall confirmed that the couple experienced difficult times.
“Kalb was arrested in 2014 on a harassment charge involving Shannon,” Hall said.
Beiter and Berwick said they could never nail down exactly where Kalb was from.
“He was a con artist and always vague,” Berwick said.
Despite all that, Beiter said efforts were made to allow Kalb to be part of his child’s life.
“The last time he saw Autumn was last Father’s Day,” Beiter said.
DiTillio looked past Kalb’s shortcomings, Berwick said.
“He left Shannon when she was six months pregnant with Autumn. After the baby was born, she chased after him. She went to Allentown (Pa.) where he was working at a carnival last summer,” Berwick said, choking up as he spoke of DiTillio’s passion and free-spirited ways.
“Shannon was just too trusting,” he said.
Berwick and Beiter said they did not know she had left last Thursday for Myrtle Beach until the coroner contacted them Monday evening and told them the sad news.
DiTillio was discovered lying face up in the lot. Two of her bags containing her possessions had been thrown into a nearby pond.
“They found the baby photo album, a calendar with notes on the progress of her pregnancy and other personal things in one of the bags they took out of the pond,” Beiter said. “The bus ticket was in the bag too, and that’s how they knew she was from here. There were also papers, and that’s how they got our phone number. But first they had to let everything dry out.”
DiTillio spent part of her teenage years in Buffalo attending Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, but left before graduating and returned to North Tonawanda.
“She could draw and sing. She wanted to be on one of those talent shows and win money and then donate it,” Berwick said as he and Beiter took turns describing DiTillio’s life while waiting on customers returning bottles and cans for deposits Thursday afternoon at their store on Erie Avenue in North Tonawanda.
Amid the clamor and sorrow, there was 16-month-old Autumn, a blond-haired, hazel-eyed child taking halting steps and clutching a baby bottle full of milk, unaware that she had lost her mother and that her father was accused of the killing.
“We don’t want to say too much because one day we will have to tell Autumn what happened,” said Beiter, who with Berwick has had custody of the child since she was 2 weeks old.
But, they made it clear that DiTillio did not drink or use drugs.
“About the only thing she did was smoke cigarettes,” Berwick said.
In addition to her mother and child, DiTillio is survived by her father, Paul; four sisters, Lynn, Michelle, Carol Jean and Mariah; and a brother, James.
“We really want to express our thanks to Paul, who is taking care of bringing Shannon home,” Berwick said.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the John E. Roberts Funeral Home in Amherst.