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After nearly four decades, a cold-case murder in Bucks County ends in a guilty plea

William Korzon, 76, admitted nearly 40 years later that he killed his wife, Gloria, during an argument in 1981.

William Korzon, 78, is escorted out of district court in Jamison after his arraignment this spring. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to killing his wife, Gloria, in 1981.
William Korzon, 78, is escorted out of district court in Jamison after his arraignment this spring. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to killing his wife, Gloria, in 1981.Read moreVinny Vella / Staff (custom credit)

Gloria Korzon’s family waited almost 40 years for closure.

On Wednesday, their wait was finally over, when William Korzon, 76, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, saying he accidentally killed his wife during an argument in their Warrington Township home in 1981. He said she fired a shot at him with his 9mm handgun, they argued over the firearm, and he shot her in the head in self-defense.

Afterward, he said, he disposed of her body in the Delaware River near Lambertville, N.J. It has never been found, and she was declared legally dead in 1997.

Korzon was sentenced Wednesday to 7½ to 15 years in prison for his wife’s death, as well as for committing forgery by signing her signature on documents in an attempt to hide his crime and gain access to her money — “profiting off her death,” as Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub put it Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Korzon acted in the “unbelievable belief that he was justified in using deadly force” when he shot his wife after years of tumultuous, violent arguments. The couple’s marriage was punctuated by repeated domestic assaults during which both at times were hospitalized.

“We now know it was the decision Gloria made to use whatever means necessary to defend herself,” Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schron said in court. “We know that it was that decision that led to the end of her life.”

What Korzon couldn’t explain was why he had lied to the township police detectives who kept hope of a conviction alive for three decades, and to his wife’s family.

In a blistering statement in court Wednesday, Jennifer Potter confronted her aunt’s killer, telling him she hopes he dies in prison.

“You killed her and threw her like garbage into a watery grave,” Potter said. “We wonder, what kind of monster would do that?”

Potter said her family always strongly suspected Korzon had something to do with his wife’s disappearance, and that the uncertainty engulfed them for 38 years.

“We always knew you did this, Bill,” she said. “We never believed your lies. You took the coward’s way out.”

Korzon said nothing in response, merely muttering flat, monotone answers to questions from County Judge Raymond F. McHugh.

His attorney, Keith Williams, spoke on his behalf, saying Korzon had decided to accept responsibility after living for so many years with the knowledge he had killed someone.

“He had lived with this for half his life, he felt it was time to finally unburden himself and give the family and everyone else closure,” Williams said. “We believe it’s a proper resolution of this matter, and it prevented a long and possibly contentious trial that I don’t think would’ve benefited anybody in this case."

Korzon was arrested at his home in York County in April, a month after an investigative grand jury found that there was enough evidence to indict him on charges of criminal homicide.

Weintraub took up the case in 2017, when detectives from Warrington Township expressed an interest in renewing their investigation and the grand jury was impaneled.

In testimony before the grand jury, Korzon admitted he lied when he told investigators his wife had briefly visited him at their Warrington home a year after being reported missing.

He admitted that he had forged her signature on checks, promissory notes, and even a Mother’s Day card to “steal her money.” And he even conceded that it would be “unusual” for a 38-year-old woman to leave a turbulent marriage with little more than the clothes on her back and without taking her driver’s license, Social Security card, and other personal documents later recovered by investigators.

His behavior in the intervening years also raised questions. A former girlfriend testified that in the heat of an argument, Korzon threatened that “the same thing was going to happen to [her] that happened to Gloria."

And one of the couple’s former neighbors told police said Korzon had solicited him for an aborted plot to kill a local officer investigating Gloria’s disappearance.

Yet, through it all, Korzon denied killing his wife. He told investigators she had left him and moved to Florida, a lie that he repeated to reporters as he was led away from his arraignment this spring in handcuffs.

It was a lie he repeated until Wednesday, when one of the most notorious cold cases in Bucks County’s history reached a resolution.

“This case is closed,” Weintraub said. “This defendant is convicted, and hopefully this family will find some peace.”