Family friend in Sharpsville murder sheds light on victim, suspect

She said the victim and suspect had tried to make a relationship work for their daughter's sake

There are a lot of unanswered questions for two Mercer County families after a young mother, 28-year-old Amanda Downs, was found dead in her Sharpsville apartment Saturday.

SHARPSVILLE, Pa. (WYTV) – There are a lot of unanswered questions for two Mercer County families after a young mother, 28-year-old Amanda Downs, was found dead in her Sharpsville apartment Saturday.

The family didn’t want to go on camera, but a close family friend talked exclusively with 33 WYTV on Sunday (she asked that we not identify her or show her face).

The suspect in the murder investigation is Antonio Velazquez-Rupert — Downs’ former boyfriend. Authorities say he also took their eight-month-old baby girl Ariella Downs from the apartment, as they were tracked down Saturday afternoon in Reading after an Amber Alert.

The family friend says Velazquez-Rupert — who goes by Toni — went to the apartment with Amanda Downs and their baby Ariella on Friday.

A few hours later, a child saw Velazquez-Rupert leave with the baby.

“Toni left and said the victim (Downs) was sleeping — not to bother her,” the family friend said.

Later Friday evening, she says one of Downs’ kids went to the bedroom to sleep with her mother.

The baby girl that was abducted in Sharpsville Saturday afternoon is doing OK, while police are investigating the death of the girl's mother.
Antonio Velazquez-Rupert

Saturday morning, she says the three-year-old came out of the bedroom with blood on her hands and face.

“Another child that was here cleaned the little girl up,” the family friend said. “That’s when she went upstairs to check on the victim and seen her like that.”

Police were called to the scene just after noon on Saturday and found Downs dead in a bed.

The family friend is still trying to process what happened and says Downs was a kind and caring person.

“She was a good person to the family,” she said. “She loved the kids, you know. His kids, she loved — she treated them like her own.”

The family friend says Velazquez-Rupert had a long history of drug abuse.

She says Downs wanted little to do with him, but because of their child, she wanted to make things work.

“She wasn’t with him, but she was trying to co-parent for the baby,” the family friend said.

But she says Velazquez-Rupert had no plans of letting her go.

“He was saying he loves her and he wants to make things right with her,” she said. “But if he couldn’t have her, nobody else would.”

As soon as the family realized what happened, they called police.

“The head of this household let them know right away where she thought he was going,” the family friend said. “Which was Reading City. That’s where he’s from. That’s where his family is.”

Velazquez-Rupert is being held in the Berks County Jail. He is expected to be relocated to Mercer County.