80-year-old man accused of killing wife apologizes to victim's family

A man charged in the death of his wife at their eastern Pennsylvania home on the Fourth of July has apologized to her family, but declined to say anything to the rest of the community.

The comments from Edgar Himel, 80, came Friday after a brief Northampton County arraignment on homicide and theft charges in the death of 66-year-old Penny VanTassel-Himel.

Asked if he wanted to apologize to his wife's family, he said "Yes. Only them." Asked if had anything to say to the public, he said "They've already formed their own opinion."

Authorities have said a July 4 call from VanTassel-Himel's cellphone reported an emergency at the home, but officers didn't make contact with anyone at the Palmer address. Her body was found three days later. Himel was arrested July 13 in Sterling, Colorado.

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VanTassel-Himel's sister Nona Edwards-Thomas, who said she has known Himel "for a long time," told The (Easton) Express-Times that she takes him at his word that his apology is sincere, but she didn't know how the victim's children felt. "We are still heartbroken and grief-stricken," she said. VanTassel-Himel's daughter Vivian Elam declined comment. 

Jason Vanderberg of Greater Shiloh Church in Easton, whose concern over VanTassel-Himel missing a morning service led to her body being found, said Himel "certainly should be sorry" but he would understand if the family chooses not to accept his apology.

"He may feel better saying he's sorry -- it may even help him sleep better at night -- but this daughter, son, grandchildren and sister -- count the church, neighbors and all of the lives that she has touched in as well. I don't think we will be sleeping that great until justice is served," he said.

Authorities are investigating whether police responded appropriately to the 911 call. Himel wasn't represented by an attorney at the hearing.