Priest finds mother, 89, murdered in Lansdowne

Posted: February 12, 2014

THE REV. ANTHONY Cossavella discovered his 89-year-old mother dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of the basement stairs in her Lansdowne home on Wednesday.

His initial thought - and the initial thought of investigators - was that the elderly woman had died in a fall on the stairs. But an autopsy three days later revealed something much more sinister.

"The Lansdowne police called me Saturday and asked if I would come down to the police station," Cossavella said yesterday. "They told me the coroner's report said she was the victim of a homicide."

Cossavella's mother, Bruna, had been stabbed in her neck and hit on her head, wounds that were not immediately apparent given the large amount of blood at the scene, according to police.

"I was shocked," Cossavella said.

While police began their homicide investigation, Cossavella, who is assigned to St. Andrew Parish in Drexel Hill, began to pray - not for himself, but to ask for forgiveness for whoever took his mother's life.

"I'm a priest. I'm a follower of the Gospel and Jesus, and the main core of the Gospel message is forgiveness," he said. "So I forgive whoever committed this action. I forgive the person."

Yesterday, Cossavella delivered the funeral Mass for his mother at St. Philomena Church in Lansdowne, where she'd been a member for more than 60 years.

"I pray that she may truly rest in peace," he said.

Cossavella and police can't think of anyone with cause to harm Bruna. Lansdowne Police Chief Daniel Donegan said there were no signs of forced entry to her home on Plumstead Avenue near Maple and nothing appeared ransacked, although detectives are still trying to determine if anything is missing.

Police have not recovered a murder weapon and are not sure what type of tool was used to brutalize the woman.

Cossavella said the last time he saw his mother was Feb. 2, when he visited her house, as he did every Sunday and Thursday, for a home-cooked meal. He said she'd cooked him polenta, a traditional dish from northern Italy.

One of Bruna's neighbors called him Wednesday to tell him she couldn't get his mother on the phone. When he didn't receive an answer to his calls either, he rushed to the house and made the grim discovery.

"It was shocking, I mean, to find her in a pool of blood there," he said.

Anthony said his mother grew up in Italy and London but settled in Italy after World War II. His father was 42 when he returned for a visit to his homeland from America and fell in love with a then-25-year-old Bruna.

The two wed and came back to Philadelphia, where his father was a head waiter at the Warwick Hotel and his mother was a homemaker. His father died in 1989.

Although his parents were of strong faith, Cossavella said it was hard on them when he announced he'd be entering the seminary in 1974.

He was an only child, just like both of his parents, and his acceptance to the seminary meant the family lineage would end with him.

"But once they saw I liked it and they met the other seminarians, it only took them a couple months and they were really happy with my decision," he said.

Cossavella, 58, was ordained in 1981 and spent time in parishes in Newtown Square, Havertown, Norristown, South Philadelphia and West Chester before he arrived at St. Andrew's last year. The move put him less than two miles from his mother's home.

That meant twice-weekly visits with Bruna, who loved kitting, cooking, sewing and her son.

"My mother's biggest labor in life was worrying about me," he said.

When Cossavella delivered Bruna's funeral Mass yesterday, he spoke of his mother's unique relationship with time.

"She never wore a watch, but she always wanted to know what time it was," he said. "She said if she wore a watch she'd drive herself crazy looking at it."

Cossavella said as with any death, God asks us to work with his notion of time and not ours during the healing process.

"In God's eye, one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day," he said.

Anyone with information on the case is urged to call Lansdowne police at 610-623-0700.

On Twitter: @FarFarrAway



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