Man accused of killing Reading taxi driver delivered to justice

July 12 – A Reading man accused of killing a taxi driver and burying his body in a shallow grave near the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in northern Lancaster County has been brought to trial after a preliminary hearing.

Johnny W. Palaguachi, 28, of the 300 block of Pine Street, was returned to the Berks County Jail without bail to await further trial on criminal manslaughter and body abuse charges following Friday’s hearing before District Judge Andrea Book.

Reading Police pressed charges on May 20 following a nine-month investigation into the disappearance of Darlyn De La Rosa-Abreu.

According to investigators:

Rosa-Abreu was reported missing by his family on August 11. He picked up his last fare in town three days earlier while working for Uptown Limo and Taxi and did not return home from work.

His cellphone was discovered the next day by residents of a property in the West Cocalico township of northern Lancaster County, a few miles east of the wildlife sanctuary.

Reading Police responded to collect the phone. When turned on, the device pinged a cell tower on Horseshoe Trail Road in West Cocalico.

Through an investigation, police learned that Palaguachi’s cellphone pinged from the same tower between 11:08 am and 11:20 am on August 8, the day Rosa-Abreu went missing. Palaguachi was the last known customer of Rosa-Abreu.

With the help of a state police helicopter, officers spotted a white vehicle parked under a tree but not visible from the road because of “tree cover” along the road.

Investigators responded to the area and determined the car to be the missing man’s vehicle based on Uptown Taxi’s markings and the vehicle identification number.

There was blood spatter on the driver’s seat.

The location was found to be about a quarter mile from where an acquaintance told police he had picked up Palaguachi.

With no body, Rosa-Abreu was still officially a missing person.

Months later, Palaguachi investigators got the breakthrough they needed.

The story goes on

In May, Palaguachi called the city police and said he had committed a crime.

Officials responded to Palaguachi’s apartment on the 300 block of Pine Street. When asked why he called the police, he said “I executed someone” and said he should be in jail.

When asked where the body was, he said, “It’s over there at Blue Marsh (Lake).”

Two investigators took Palaguachi to the community of North Heidelberg near Robesonia, about 15 miles north of Rosa-Abreu’s car.

He directed police to a lawn on Old Church Road and recalled pulling into a clearing and turning right. Police searched the area with the help of state police cadaver dogs, but no human remains were found during the search.

Palaguachi then led them to a field along a tree line. Almost immediately, detective Joseph Snell found what turned out to be a human bone near the tree line.

It’s unclear if Palaguachi’s memory wasn’t clear or if there was some other reason he needed a second chance to find the remains.

Palaguachi was picked up in Reading. He told investigators he was in the taxi when the driver upset him. He said he broke the driver’s neck and then stabbed him in the neck five times with a pen.

It was unclear where the attack took place in the vehicle.

Palaguachi placed the driver’s body in the back seat and then drove to the location in North Heidelberg where he left the body. Palaguachi said he buried the remains in a shallow grave, which he dug with his hands.

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