The Murder of Rachel Siani

On March 29, 2000, twenty-two year-old stripper Rachel Siani was murdered after leaving her shift at Diva's International Gentlemen's Club in Bristol Township, PA.

Motorists found her crumpled corpse two days later, under the New Jersey side of a turnpike crossing the Delaware River. Autopsies showed she was choked unconscious before being thrown over 100 feet to her death. Medical examiners found a fractured skull, lacerated kidneys, a punctured liver and blood in her lungs.

One week later, married businessman John Denofa, 36, was arrested at his Pennsylvania home and later extradited to New Jersey.  He was indicted on one count of first-degree murder in connection with Siani’s death and was released on $500,000 bail.

Denofa, described as a "respectable businessman,” owned a sign company.  He was a regular at Diva’s, spending most Tuesday nights there.  Unable to drive due to a suspended license, Denofa was dropped off at the club by his wife Lisa, who did it “because it made him happy.”  Afterwards Denofa often stayed at the adjoining EconoLodge, police said.  He steadfastly denied having anything to do with Siani’s death.

Rachel Siani stripped at Diva’s under the name "Roxanne" for 18 months.   She used the money pay her tuition and student fees at Bucks County Community College, although those who knew said she also had expensive heroin and cocaine habits.

Siani was Denofa’s favorite stripper.  "They would meet after her shift. They would pal around," a source at Diva’s said.  "He was constantly throwing cash at her. He bought her all kinds of presents."  Police theorized that Denofa wanted a sexual relationship with Siani and when she rejected him, he became enraged and killed her.

Witnesses testified they saw Denofa leave Diva’s club with Siani about 2:30 a.m. on March 29.  They went into the adjacent EconoLodge to a room he’d rented.

The prosecution claimed that Denofa choked Siani in the motel room, then threw her unconscious body out of the second-floor window.  Finally, he put her in the back of his red Dodge Ram pickup and drove toward New Jersey, where he stopped on the turnpike bridge and dropped her over the side.

Indeed, tollbooth surveillance tapes showed a truck like Denofa's, with what appeared to be a body sprawled in the back, heading to New Jersey and returning empty.

Blood, hair, and fibers consistent with Siani's clothes were found in Denofa's truck.  Police also found blood on the door and curtains of EconoLodge’s Room 223, plus a piece of fabric that matched her sweater on the window frame. A large amount of Siani’s dried blood was found on a sidewalk outside the motel.

Examination of Siani’s body showed blood and skin cells under her fingernails, and two of her nails broken off.  During his initial questioning, police noted that Denofa had scratch marks on his forearms.  Forensics officials subsequently ran DNA tests to see if blood and skin found under Siani's fingernails belonged to him.

At the trial, defense attorneys argued that someone else framed Denofa by copying his keys, then driving his truck to New Jersey with Siani's body in the back. They also depicted Siani as a heavy drug user with many sex partners.

Jurors didn’t buy that story, and took less than two hours to convict him for Rachel Siani’s murder.  Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, as there were not enough ‘aggravating factors’ to make it a capital crime.

Denofa did not react when the verdict was read.  Afterward, he turned to his wailing wife, Lisa.  He was allowed to hug her and his mother before he was handcuffed and taken away.

In the aftermath of Siani’s murder, Bristol Township passed an ordinance imposing restrictions on strip clubs.  Club owners signed an agreement that gives them until Dec. 31, 2005 to conform to rules that were set years ago, but which officials couldn't fully enforce because of a court challenge.

Clubs must now show compliance with rules governing opening hours, dressing rooms, restrooms, lighting, loitering, and lewdness. They will also need to establish a 10-foot separation between dancers and patrons to prevent physical contact.

"It's been a long journey hammering this out," Councilman Ken Balcom said. "Bristol Township has always had the image that you can dump anything [here]. We're cleaning up this township."

Diva’s International Gentleman’s Club is now closed.


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