As Shawn Lichtfuss sat in his car Tuesday evening and waited for police to arrive, a photo of him and his wife was posted to his Facebook page.
”I will always love you, baby,” said the caption. “I’m sorry.”
Those words, which some found puzzling at the time, in retrospect seem haunting, friends said.
Lichtfuss, 49, was arrested minutes later and charged in the death of his wife, Stefani Carraway, who police say was strangled in the home the couple shared in Voorhees.
Camden County authorities have said little about the crime since announcing murder charges against Lichtfuss.
Efforts to reach relatives of the couple were unsuccessful. But friends and coworkers described Carraway, 38, as caring and kind, a confidant, a cheerleader, and a sounding board for those close to her when life seemed most uncertain.
For 17 years, Carraway worked at PetValu, a chain of pet-supply stores that shuttered last year, most recently as a regional manager. Her coworkers coped with the loss by sharing memories of her amid their disbelief she was gone.
“She treated her staff like family and would drop anything to make sure we were OK,” Sarah Carney, one of Carraway’s former employees, said. “When we found out our store was closing, she made sure that we all heard the news from her instead of on Facebook, and even though she was hurt from the news, went out of her way to make sure everyone else was taken care of.”
Gianna Fountas, 23, recalled how she confided in Carraway when she found out she was pregnant, and how supportive and helpful Carraway was at the time.
“Words can’t even describe how upset I am, because the worst things always happen to the best people, and they never deserve them,” Fountas said. “I have so many questions. Why and how could that even happen, and what pushed him to do that to her?”
Carraway and Lichtfuss had been together about 10 years, according to Fountas. Both had children from previous relationships: a preteen daughter for Carraway, an 8-year-old son for Lichtfuss.
On social media, the blended family seemed happy, posing for pictures at Disney World and on other trips. At work, Carraway’s colleagues said she waved away questions about her personal life, saying “everything was fine.”
In recent days, however, she appeared tired and withdrawn, leaving some to wonder, in hindsight, if that was a sign of trouble to come.
“She never asked anyone for help,” Fountas said. “I feel like it’s my fault, because if I saw that sooner, I could’ve helped.”
Camden County prosecutors say Lichtfuss had sent text messages threatening to harm himself early Tuesday, triggering a police response. Minutes later, officers arrived at the couple’s home and found Carraway unresponsive in a bedroom.
An autopsy determined she had been strangled. Lichtfuss was arrested hours later as he sat in his car at a convenience store near the township police station. He has been charged with murder.
Lichtfuss has a history of mental illness and violent crime, records show, including the rape of a 13-year-old girl during a 1993 house party in Warrington. He also has a history of extremist views and was arrested for passing out anti-Semitic leaflets and defacing a synagogue in Bucks County.
Carraway’s friends didn’t know about that past and were shocked at the details as they came to light after her death.
“Everything she ever said about Shawn was positive, happy stuff,” her friend Bryan Bolt said. “Looking back on it, I would dump stuff on her, and she would never vent her frustrations to me about anything.”
Staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.