"I just want to know if she suffered. I hope not," McCool said yesterday. "How was it done? Was she alive when he put her in the basement?"
There were no answers yesterday to his questions - at the scene or from investigators. Outside the rowhouse, McCool placed flowers - carnations, daisies and irises (because blue was his sister's favorite color) - by a small door leading to the entrance where her body was found.
"It's so hard to have to deal with," McCool said.
The badly decomposed body, covered in plastic and wrapped with duct tape, was discovered late Thursday in a dank cellar. The missing woman was positively identified through her dental records. There were no obvious signs of trauma, such as a gunshot, and a final determination of the cause of death could take several weeks.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing, but some answers may never be known, especially since Thomas Szumski, 42, died of an apparent heroin overdose last month.
Raymond Milavsky, Burlington County first assistant prosecutor, said investigators believe that Thomas Szumski killed his wife in their home and then, apparently acting alone, took the body to the Lombard Street site.
"I want to know how the scumbag did it. How could he get away with it?" McCool questioned. "I can't figure out how nobody saw him."
Starting as early as last year, Thomas Szumski had done work at the rowhouse on Lombard Street near Sixth Street, Milavsky said.
Thomas Szumski frequently visited the property and was hired by the real estate management firm of Plumer & Associates to do odd jobs, the prosecutor said. The building is owned by Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.
His sister, Margaret Szumski, worked for the real estate firm, but it was unclear how Thomas Szumski had gained access to the building. Milavsky said authorities believe he may have secured the keys from the realty company.
Investigators went to the building late Wednesday after reinterviewing a man who had done construction work with Szumski. The man who had earlier provided authorities with a list of sites where the two had worked disclosed the Lombard location for the first time, said Sgt. Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.
"I can't tell you why. He may have forgotten," Smith said yesterday. He credited detectives for their tenacity in solving a case that had appeared to have stalled until this week.
When police went inside, they saw a newly constructed wall that had flies hovering in front of it. A cadaver-sniffing police dog confirmed the likely presence of a corpse.
McCool said the grisly discovery confirmed what he had immediately suspected when his sister was reported missing May 9.
Shortly before she disappeared, Kimberly Szumski had filed for divorce, claiming that her husband had physically and mentally abused her. The couple, both from Northeast Philadelphia, met in 1989 and married less than a year later.
The day before Thomas Szumski's death, McCool had publicly accused his brother-in-law of knowing what had happened to Kimberly Szumski.
"I knew in my mind he did something to her from day one," McCool said. "Your heart tells you. It was just a matter of finding her."
In addition to her brother, Kimberly Szumski is survived by her children, Luke, 6, and Olivia, 4, who live with an aunt.
A visitation for Kimberly Szumski will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Reilly Funeral Home, 2632 E. Allegheny Ave., Philadelphia. A Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 2535 E. Allegheny Ave.
The family suggests contributions to: The Kimberly McCool Szumski Children's Fund, c/o Commerce Bank Whitman Branch, 2653 S. 5th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148.
Melanie Burney's e-mail address is email@example.com.
Staff writers Angela Couloumbis and Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. and surburban writer Angela Valdez contributed to this article.