She had come so far, her father said. Brought to this country from Korea as a preschooler, she became a cheerleading champion, a giving volunteer, a popular employee at the bank where she worked.
Now Michael Sadler struggles to reconcile that with the fact that his 29-year-old daughter Trisha Sadler is dead, the victim of a grisly homicide Friday in west Bethlehem.
"She was the baby of the family," Michael Sadler said. "As with any girl in the family, your brothers are very protective of you, and the loss of their only sister has hit them very hard."
Speaking from his home near Harrisburg, where the family moved after stints in Kentucky and the Lehigh Valley, Michael Sadler painted a picture of his adopted daughter with a smile that was "radiant and full of warmth."
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Michael and his wife, Diane, adopted Trisha at the age of 4 from Pusan, Korea. The youngest of their four children, she later graduated from Parkland High School and went on to study business at the University of Kentucky.
On Friday, Trisha Sadler was found stabbed to death and dismembered in the bungalow she bought herself on Cloverfield Road where she lived with her 45-year-old boyfriend, Willie J. Ward.
After a five-hour standoff with police, Ward was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, resisting law enforcement and reckless endangerment. Ward was sent to Lehigh County Prison without bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Sadler died of multiple stab wounds, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said.
Sadler and Ward, an out-of-work contractor who had once gone shopping for a diamond ring for his girlfriend, were a friendly couple, friends said. They held a yard sale in their West Bethlehem neighborhood, offered to shovel driveways.
But many suspected their nine-year courtship had a very dark side.
According to an arrest affidavit, friends said Sadler would come to work at Wells Fargo in Bethlehem with bruises. She confided to them that Ward threw her around and choked her, according to the arrest affidavit, and they were fighting more and more. Neighbors called police when the shouting got too loud.
Two weeks before her death, Sadler gave her co-worker a warning: If I don't come to work, call the police. He's said he's going to kill me, the affidavit said.
Sadler's coworker, Crystal Van Gorden, last saw her friend alive during dinner at Olive Garden early last week. Warned about Ward, Van Gorden followed her instructions to the tee Friday when Sadler, a reliable employee, missed her second day of work at Wells Fargo. She called police.
Police said Ward has an extensive criminal history, including multiple arrests for assault, disorderly conduct and drug violations. According to the arrest affidavit, he's currently on parole for an aggravated assault conviction related to a previous domestic violence incident.
Ward previously served prison time for beating a 37-year-old man outside an Allentown bar in 1992. After pleading guilty to aggravated assault the following year, he was sentenced to six to 20 years.
During sentencing, Lehigh County Judge Lawrence J. Brenner noted Ward had pleaded guilty to assaults in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
On Friday, officers knocked on the door of the Cloverfield Road home shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, but got no response.
They forced their way into the screened porch, peeking through an open window. Smelling the stench first — a putrid, rotting odor — they glanced up to see a man charging from inside, swinging a weapon.
They quickly pulled back, set up a perimeter and called in the emergency response team. Cell phone records showed Sadler's phone was inside the house, and her car was parked outside. But they hadn't seen any sign of the woman.
The team waited. They called out for Ward's surrender. And when they had enough of waiting and calling, they broke inside to catch the cornered man.
With a defiant cry — "You won't take me alive!" — Ward, hurling glass vases and barbells, launched himself at the Bethlehem officers clambering into the house. Shot with a bean-bag round, he turned and fled deeper into the house.
Ward barricaded himself in the bathroom, wrapping his head in wet towels to avoid the capsicum gas flooding the bungalow. From there, he climbed to the attic, dogged by police gas canisters. It took three Taser blasts and a barrage of beanshot to finally bring him to his knees. He was carried out feet-first by officers.
It was then that police found the black bags in the bedroom, surrounded by blood. A sergeant brushed them with his hand and guessed what they held, but called the coroner to confirm: It was Sadler's dismembered body, stuffed into the bags.
Sadler and Ward had lived in the house together since November, friends told police. Van Gorden said Ward had recently lost partial custody of his son.
"We're still trying to digest what happened," said Mel Simmons, Ward's cousin, who gathered with other friends and family Sunday at a home in Salisbury Township.
Sadler, on the other hand, had a good job, her father said, and a contagious sense of humor. In middle school, she won a cheerleading competition, and she always gave freely of her time to charity.
On Sunday, the west Bethlehem bungalow was quiet but remained roped off with yellow tape, and a portable evidence storage unit was parked in the driveway. A few joggers slowed to get a look at the scene, and a makeshift memorial of flower and candles lay piled on the curb.
A memorial: That's what Michael Sadler wants. For now, all he can think about is his daughter's smile.
"We have received hundreds and hundreds of emails from people in Kentucky and Allentown and every place she has been and lived," he said. "She touched so many lives."