A 22-year-old mother was shot and killed in her Port Richmond bedroom overnight with her 2-year-old daughter nearby, police said.
Police identified the victim as Stephanie Dzikowski, a dental assistant who, according to neighbors, had grown up in the house where she was shot and was well liked by those who knew her.
Police said they were called to the 3000 block of Aramingo Avenue around 11 p.m. Thursday after getting a call about a person with a gun and were directed to Dzikowski's house.
Police Capt. Drew Techner told reporters at the scene that Dzikowski was found in a second-floor bedroom with the toddler, who was unharmed. Dzikowski had been shot once in the head.
Police were looking for a male in a hoodie seen fleeing the area on a chrome bicycle.
Neighbors on Friday morning recounted a gunshot, a toddler found alone, and a search that ended with a shocking discovery announced by piercing screams and shouts on the street.
Brian Pabon, 19, who lives about two doors down from the house Dzikowski shared with her boyfriend, Sean Sadowniczak said the chaos began for him when a neighbor called and said that a gun had been fired inside a house on the block.
Pabon walked over to the Dzikowski house and peaked his head inside, calling up the stairs, "Yo Steph ... Steph ... Steph."
When he didn't hear a reply, Pabon said he returned to the street and saw Dzikowski's boyfriend, Sadowniczak, hurrying back from a nearby store. Sadowniczak, Pabon said, had received a phone call about the shooting while he was out.
The two entered the house together.
Dzikowski's iPhone was playing music on a table downstairs, Pabon said. The men bolted upstairs to the couple's bedroom and found the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Clarissa, sitting silently on the bed.
The men didn't see Dzikowski, Pabon said, so Sadowniczak scooped Clarissa up and they continued to search other floors.
When the first floor and basement didn't yield results, Pabon suggested they check the bedroom again.
Sadowniczak walked in first, Pabon said, then let out a harrowing scream.
"I ain't ever seen a grown man scream and cry like that," Papon said.
Neighbor Marie Larkins, 48, and her niece, Elizabeth Sterling, 25, a friend of the victim since childhood, were sitting in Larkins' home when Sadowniczak banged on their door.
"Somebody killed Stephanie!" Larkins recalled him yelling. "Somebody killed Stephanie!"
The two women ran to the Dzikowski house and found their friend, covered with blood, laying against her bedroom wall.
They tried to perform CPR, Larkins said, they noticed the bullet hole in her head.
"I was shaking," Larkins said. "My whole insides were shaking."
As Larkins lay Dzikowski's body flat, Sterling was yelling at her, "Steph, Steph, Steph," as if to wake her friend.
Larkins realized it would do no good.
"She's gone," Larkins recalls telling Sterling. "There's nothing we can do."
Police responded and pronounced Dzikowski dead at 11:06 p.m.
Sterling said she could not sleep that night.
"When I close my eyes, I picture that," she said.
In the close knit neighborhood, where families gather on each others' porches, Dzikowski was known as caring, loving mother, a friend with a sense of humor and a woman determined to improve her lot in life.
She worked as had a job a dental assistant after graduating from dental school last year, neighbors said. She and Sadowniczak had just signed a lease for a place of their own.
Her popularity was evident hours after the shocking discovery, when a memorial of flowers and candles took shape on the porch of the Dzikowski home.
"She was like a niece to us," Larkins said. "They got along with everybody."
Neighbors were confounded by who would've committed such a crime. Another mystery was how the intruder was able to pass by the couple's pitbull.
Dzikowkski's cousin, Michael McGovern, said Dzikowski had no enemies - no obvious candidates to enter her home and gun her down.
"If I had the slightest idea," he said, "I'd probably be out there looking for him myself."