HARRISBURG — The bullet wound in her neck that Linda Knauss suffered inside a Harrisburg clothing boutique more than three decades ago affected her life in profound ways, but she was not one to dwell on her fate.
"She went along with her life, got along with it and tried to best operate as she could, with the limitations that were dealt to her because of this," her nephew Brent Knauss said Friday. "She was a classy lady, she always looked on the bright side of things."
More than thirty years after the shooting that changed her life, her death is being called a homicide.
The Lehigh County coroner's office recently determined complications from the April 1982 shooting led to the Orefield woman's Feb. 18 death at an Allentown hospital.
Harrisburg police have renewed their investigation into the incident in which the shop owner also was shot, possibly by a man carrying a homemade weapon.
Solving it may require a stroke of luck, said Brent Knauss, a Cooperstown, N.Y., propane sales businessman. He was 13 when his aunt was shot, and remembers how the crime transformed what had seemed to him her "fairy tale" life, including a nice new home and a thriving hair salon business.
"This is 30 years later and there's still somebody that caused this. Who knows — that person could be dead. That person could see the article and feel guilty and say they did it. You never know," he said.
Linda Knauss had come to Harrisburg that day with her husband Ron to shop at The Plum, owned then and now by Isaac Mishkin, the other shooting victim. They planned to see Mishkin's new home and have dinner together.
Mishkin was closing up and turning out the lights when Ron Knauss, since deceased, started to go out the front door.
"He said, 'We seem to have a problem here,'" Mishkin said this week. "What he meant was there was a man with a gun saying, 'Get back in there.' So we did."
The assailant said something like "I'm going to blow you away," Mishkin said.
It was about then that he was shot in the chest, the bullet passing a half-inch from his heart.
Mishkin said he did not at first realize he was shot, but a responding police officer saw the blood. He doesn't remember seeing Linda Knauss shot, and he can't recall what the suspect looked like. The bullet remains lodged in his body.
Mishkin said he has "a faint memory of having my hand on his hand and taking the gun away." He said police recovered the gun, which he recalled as a homemade weapon that fired a .22-caliber bullet.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said Friday a member of his staff was meeting with city police to assess the matter. He also wants to hear from the forensic pathologist about the link between the shooting and her death.
If they can get a solid description of the suspect, it may be released publicly to see if it jogs any memories. A robbery around that same time in another part of town could possibly be linked, Marsico said.
Linda Knauss remained a customer of The Plum until the last few weeks of her life, getting clothes mailed to her and then sending back anything she did not want.
Her nephew said she lost the use of one arm and the other arm was very limited, and her left leg was nearly entirely disabled. She continued to operate hair salons in Allentown, and could drive a car, but had to cope with many restrictions as a result.
Her death came to the attention of the coroner's office when the funeral home sought permission for a cremation last month. That led to an investigation that ultimately concluded it was homicide.
Harrisburg Police Lt. Robert Fegan said this week the shooting was reported as a robbery, and that the assailant had been subdued but jumped up and ran away.
"It's just tragic — this poor woman was injured severely and suffered for all these years," Fegan said. "It's quite disturbing."