Phillip Gallina hadn’t heard from his father in weeks. Their usual daily WhatsApp text conversations, sent over the span of seven time zones and the Atlantic Ocean, had stopped without explanation.
From Italy, Gallina reached out to his father’s long-term girlfriend, Anna Maria Tolomello, in Chalfont, police said Thursday. She said simply that Giovanni Gallina “was away.”
In reality, police said, Gallina was dead. Tolomello, 48, shot him in the head, they said, allegedly in self-defense, and kept his body for days inside the bedroom of the Chalfont home they shared.
Detectives from Hilltown Township caught up with Tolomello after she had hired a local contractor to dig a hole in her driveway, where prosecutors say she prepared to bury Gallina’s body and pave over the evidence of her crime.
Tolomello has been charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and related offenses. There was no indication she had hired an attorney, and she remained in custody Thursday, denied bail.
Gallina, 65, was the owner of Pina’s Pizzeria, a popular restaurant in Chalfont. Employees there told investigators they hadn’t seen him “in a while” and, like Gallina’s son, had received no explanation about his disappearance.
Meanwhile, Tolomello had called a contractor — whom they did not identify — and said she needed to hire an excavator to dig a hole on her property because she needed to bury something. And she provided very specific dimensions: 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet deep, the contractor later told police.
Tolomello paid the contractor $350 to dig the hole and said she would do the rest of the work herself and fill in the hole with a shovel, the contractor later told police.
Around the same time, Tolomello spoke to a friend about incense and asked whether its scent could mask the odor of a skunk she said had been in her garage, the affidavit said.
When investigators later went to search Tolomello’s home, she admitted that she killed Gallina, according to the affidavit, but said she had acted in self-defense.
Gallina, she said, had been strangling her on the bed, and she shot him in the temple with a .38-caliber revolver, the document said.
Detectives found Gallina’s body in the master bedroom, covered in bed linens and a tarp. Tolomello, they said, told them she cleaned up after the crime and hauled the blood-soaked mattress away and put it in a dumpster outside Pina’s Pizzeria.
A man who answered the phone at the pizzeria Thursday afternoon declined to comment, saying he couldn’t “talk about that right now.” Efforts to reach Gallina’s son were unsuccessful.
Richard McElhattan, of Levittown, who worked at Pina’s Pizzeria for six years, said Gallina and Tolomello, who owned the business together and both worked there, were devoted to its success.
“That business was their life,” he said. “They never took a day off.”
While he recalled that the couple sometimes argued, he said the crime Tolomello stands accused of was unthinkable.
“I found out about this this morning and I’m still shaken,” he said. “I just have no idea how this could have happened.”
Anja Castrejon, a former employee at the pizzeria who started a GoFundMe campaign to cover funeral expenses for Gallina, described him as a funny, kindhearted man always willing to help people in need.
“‘The Boss’ was a good man that was tough on the outside but loving on the inside,” she wrote. “He helped many people in need, including myself, and I will forever be grateful. I can write pages about this man’s impact on so many people.”
Gallina’s nephew, Filipo, reached through Facebook in his native Italy, expressed similar sentiment.
“I’m thankful for him taking care of me when I first came here,” he said. “He’ll be so missed.”
News researcher Ryan Briggs contributed to this article.