Motive in Westerlo killing mystifies sheriff

Tracy Zetzsche was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder, accused of killing her 22

Tracy Zetzsche stood huddled in a blanket and appeared distraught on a stoop outside the second-floor apartment she shared with her adult son over the P & L Deli.

The 52-year-old woman from Long Island was spotted by her sister-in-law, who stopped as she was driving to work Monday morning. Zetzsche quickly told her there was something wrong with her son, 22-year-old Gabriel Philby-Zetzsche, but then tried to block her when she went to investigate the trouble.

The woman eventually made her way into the apartment to find the man crumpled on the floor, the victim of a brutal assault and stabbing. An autopsy later showed he had been dead for roughly five days, a time when authorities believe his mother was frantically trying to conceal the evidence of the violent altercation she had with him the previous week.

Blood stains were scrubbed away. Three knives and a hammer were bundled in a bloody sheet, stashed in a plastic bag and pitched in the deli’s dumpster.

“She tried to clean everything,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Wednesday. “But there was one key thing here and that was the body.”

Zetzsche, who refused to talk with investigators, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder. She was arraigned in Westerlo Town Court and sent to the Albany County Jail without bail.

Investigators say they have a solid case with strong evidence that points to Zetzsche as the one who bludgeoned and stabbed her son to death. But they still have no indication of what motivated her.

“We’re trying to piece together a motive quite honestly,” Apple said. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened.”

Apple said family members and neighbors indicated there was a recent history of altercations between the two, but that his office was never called to the apartment on state Route 143. He said the mother and son had moved to Westerlo from the Long Island hamlet of Commack about eight months earlier, but were in the process of moving out when the attack occurred.

After the body of her son was recovered, investigators found a number of bruises and cuts on the mother’s hands. She told them that she couldn’t remember what happened.

Philby-Zetzsche died from a stab wound to the heart and brain injuries caused from blunt-force trauma, an autopsy later revealed. Apple said he sustained multiple stab wounds and had been repeatedly beaten with the hammer.

“It was very violent attack,” he said.

Apple said the wounds to the mother’s hands are consistent with ones that could be sustained accidentally while attacking someone with a knife. He said authorities have received some information that she has a past history of violence, but they haven’t yet independently verified these claims.

Apple said there is some indication money was an issue with Zetzsche, who worked as a cleaner at a local bed and breakfast. He wasn’t sure if her son had a job, but said he sometimes helped his mother at work.

Philby-Zetzsche’s Facebook page is now filled with posts from friends and acquaintances — a makeshift memorial to honor his life. Many describe him as a warm-hearted person with an indomitable spirt and a ceaseless smile who never let a physical disability hold him back.

Some described how he loved to give them enthusiastic high-fives and zealously followed professional basketball’s Knicks. But most of all, they described him as someone who stayed positive and always seemed to elevate the mood among the people he knew.

“You adopted everything and everyone I cared for as if they were your own,” wrote one friend on the page. “[You] approached everyone with an eager smile and an open heart. No question, you brought out the best in me. Physically limited, but emotionally gifted.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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