People who knew Danielle Cretacci say she was a devoted mother to her two young daughters and a good friend, a tutor at the girls' school who also worked for a cleaning company.
Cretacci's friends struggled to reconcile the compassionate person they adored with the horrific way her life ended: as the victim of a triple shooting Tuesday that left the 31-year-old dead and her daughters wounded.
“I just talked to her Friday, everything was good,” Robert Jackson, who is godfather to Cretacci's daughters, said Wednesday while he stood outside Cretacci's former West Side home. “I can’t believe this. It just don’t make no sense.”
Town of Tonawanda police on Wednesday identified Cretacci as the victim of the shooting that took place at 2 a.m. Tuesday in a home on Ebling Avenue. Her daughters, 11 and 8, were reported in stable condition. They were not named by police. One of them called police to alert them to the shooting, police said.
John Guercio owns the home where she was killed. Guercio, co-owner of Guercio & Sons on Grant Street in Buffalo, was friends with Cretacci, who was a former employee of the food market. Guercio allowed Cretacci and her two children to live in his house earlier this year when she had difficulty finding housing and reached out to Guercio for help, said Guercio’s attorney Robert C. Singer.
Guercio also helped care for Cretacci’s children while they were living at his residence, Singer said.
Guercio works nights at Guercio & Sons and helps prepare morning shipments to local restaurants during his shift. On the night of the burglary and shootings, Guercio reported to work as usual and left his home at approximately 1:15 a.m., Singer said. At approximately 4:30 a.m., Guercio was contacted at work by Tonawanda detectives following the shootings, his attorney said. Guercio has cooperated with the police investigation, Singer said. He also provided detectives information to corroborate his location at the time of the shootings, Singer said.
"John left for work that night when Danielle and her children were asleep on his couch," Singer said. "He is absolutely devastated by the events that happened following his departure. He grieves for Danielle and her family and prays that Danielle’s children quickly recover from their injuries. He cannot begin to imagine how Danielle’s children are dealing with the death of their mother. This senseless act of violence has shaken John to his core.
"He was a friend of Danielle, and that is all," Singer added. "If this incident has its roots in domestic violence, then the perpetrator is not John Guercio. My belief is that John is no longer considered a suspect and that Tonawanda Police have moved forward with investigating other suspects/persons of interest."
Wednesday, friends gathered outside the Herkimer Street apartment where Cretacci lived for many years and where candles and other items had been set up in a makeshift memorial.
“She has been moved out of here, but this is where everyone knows Danielle," said Jackson, who lived next door to Cretacci for about 10 years. "If you know Danielle, you know her from here on this street. You don’t know her from nowhere but this street.”
Cretacci worked as a tutor for some time at nearby School 19, the Native American Magnet School, according to Catharine Donahue, 42, who grew up with Cretacci on the West Side and was one of those who came to Herkimer to talk with friends at the memorial.
A meeting was planned for Wednesday afternoon at the school where former co-workers intended to come together to remember Cretacci and see what they could do for her daughters, Donahue said.
Donahue said Cretacci’s daughters excelled in school. Donahue’s children had attended School 19 along with Cretacci’s.
“They're phenomenal students. Always A-pluses, 100s, they never failed at anything," she said. "They made their mother really proud.”
Jackson said he believes the father of the girls is in prison now on a weapons charge.
“Their dad, he’s locked up — he’s probably got the word now and, you know what I mean, he’s probably going crazy," Jackson said.
Donahue also said the father must be grief-stricken at what happened to the daughters and Cretacci.
“I can’t imagine what he’s going through," she said, "knowing she was killed the way she was, and then, his girls. Thank God that one of his girls got to the phone."
Jackson expressed disbelief that someone would hurt her girls.
“She was a good mother — she would never put them in danger," he said. "I don’t know where this all came about, or why this happened, or why they take it out on the kids. You’re going to shoot the kids? They’re sisters, they’re together, they bond together. You don’t know how much you’re going to mess their life up. You’re going to shoot them?”
Jackson remembered how Cretacci supported him when his wife died of cancer in September 2018.
“She was there for me when my wife was dying,” he said. “Right here at this corner, we hugged, I cried, she cried. She was always there for me. She was good – a good person. She was good.”
Jackson and Donahue said they and other friends and family tried to see Cretacci’s girls in the hospital, but they were unable to.
“I can’t wait to see them,” Jackson said.
Donahue said Cretacci also held janitorial jobs in addition to tutoring at School 19, where Cretacci’s daughters attended school before moving to Niagara Falls. Police said Cretacci and her daughters were living at the Ebling Avenue residence with the homeowner at the time of the shooting.
“She’d do anything for her girls,” Donahue added.
Donahue said the last time she talked to Cretacci was two weeks ago, and that she mentioned possibly moving back to Buffalo.
“She said she was going to try to get back over here to the West Side, but ... ” Donahue said, her voice trailing off.
Investigators have not made any arrests in the case but have said there is no danger to the public because the shooting was targeted.
Police say they will not release additional information because this is "a complicated, sensitive investigation."
“I just hope they find the person or people that did this," Donahue said. "Those girls don’t deserve this, they really don’t.”
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