A Camden County man with a history of sexual violence, extremist views and struggles with mental health was charged with killing his wife, hours after police were called to his apartment to check on his welfare.
Voorhees Township police said they received a call Tuesday morning from a person concerned for the safety of Shawn Lichtfuss, 49, after he allegedly sent them text messages in which he threatened to harm himself.
But when officers arrived at his home in the 1400 block of Lincoln Drive, they found no sign of him. His wife — Stefani Caraway, 38 — was dead in the bedroom from an apparent strangulation.
Investigators found Lichtfuss seven hours later, sitting in his car parked at a convenience store across from the Voorhees Township Police Department about a mile from the crime scene.
Since Lichtfuss' arrest Tuesday evening, county detectives have refused to discuss their investigation, and few details about his relationship with his wife have emerged.
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It was not immediately clear whether Lichtfuss, who remains in the Camden County jail pending a detention hearing, had retained an attorney.
In past brushes with the law — including arrests for assault, statutory rape and vandalizing houses of worship with white supremacist slogans more than two decades ago — Lichtfuss has explained his crimes as cries for help.
In 1998, while living in Upper Southampton, he admitted to spray-painting three Bucks County synagogues with the words intifada — a reference to Palestinian uprisings against Israel — and a German phrase that translates to "Remember Your Past."
Lichtfuss, then 26, turned himself in two days after the attack, telling police he defaced the building because he wanted to go back to jail, where he had previously served an eight-to-23-month statutory-rape sentence for an incident in which he, three other men and a boy took turns assaulting a 13-year-old girl after inviting her to a house party in Warrington in 1993.
"He wanted to be arrested (in the vandalism case) because he had problems living and wanted to be in a more controlled environment," Warrington Township Detective Richard Bradbury testified at the preliminary hearing in that case.
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County prosecutors had previously encountered Lichtfuss a decade earlier as he distributed handprinted fliers in Sellersville celebrating "the Fuhrers," then-District Attorney Alan Rubenstein said at the time.
But by the time of his sentencing for defacing the synagogues, Lichtfuss professed to have renounced white supremacy and converted to Judaism, in part because he had been engaged to a Jewish woman.
He told the judge he thought going to prison could help "straighten (him) up" after struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. He was sentenced to one to two years.
Public records reveal little about Lichtfuss' life since then, and family members did not return calls for comment Wednesday. He worked as a cement mason on projects across the region and at some point married Caraway and moved to New Jersey.
But it was clear to their friends in the hours before police discovered her body that something was wrong. Several of Caraway's former coworkers at a Pet Valu store in New Jersey took to Facebook seeking information on the whereabouts of the couple.
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"She and her husband are missing and his last post is very concerning," wrote one. Responding Wednesday to the news of her death, another wrote: "I am devastated. My heart is completely broken. Stef was genuinely one of the most caring people I have ever met."
Camden County authorities said the matter remains under investigation.