Woman Mistakenly Identified as Victim in Fatal Accident
Sep. 21, 1991
HARRISBURG (AP) _ Her parents were notified. Funeral arrangements were being made and family members struggled to come to grips with the death of Denise Dieter in a car accident.
Her stepfather and grandfather had the heart-wrenching task of identifying the 23-year-old law student's body.
But as the family gathered in her father's home near Philadelphia Sunday, Ms. Dieter walked into her Harrisburg apartment. A startled, crying roommate said, ''You'd better call your dad.''
Denise Dieter was misidentified as another woman killed in a Tioga County car accident last Saturday. A second person was killed and another was critically injured in the crash.
The female victim's face had been destroyed but she had striking similarities to Dieter, who was supposed to be in the car with her friends but changed her mind at the last minute.
The victim, Cindy Bowers, was the same height and weight as Ms. Dieter. They had the same hair color and were even wearing an identical hair barrette. They also had double-pierced ears, were wearing the same earrings and had similar key rings.
''It was really bizarre and weird,'' Ms. Dieter said in a telephone interview.
Ms. Dieter was unaware of the accident when she walked into her Harrisburg home last Sunday afternoon.
She said her roommate, Jackie Rodriquez, just kept staring at her and became hysterical. Ms. Rodriquez was crying and could only blurt out for Ms. Dieter to call her father.
''I thought somebody in my family died,'' Ms. Dieter said.
When Ms. Dieter called her father's home, her stepmother, Patti Dieter, answered.
''I said, 'Hey Patti, What's up?''' Ms. Dieter recalled. ''She was stunned. She said, 'Denise, they're planning your funeral. Where the hell are you?'
''My father grabbed the phone, he was hysterical. He kept saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.' At this point, I knew they thought I was dead.''
Ms. Dieter then called her mother and said, ''Mom, I'm alive.''
Last Saturday, Dieter, a second-year student at Widener Law School's Harrisburg campus, visited her undergraduate alma mater, Mansfield University. She was invited to a picnic to hobnob with lawyers.
''I called and said I wasn't going. I don't know why. I wasn't tired or sick, I just didn't feel like going,'' she said.
Cindy Bowers, went in her place, along with Larry Keener and his brother Steven. Around 9:30 p.m., Ms. Bowers, 29, and Steven Keener, 44, were killed when their car left the highway on a curve, struck a sign, rode up a guardrail and went airborne for about 120 feet, police said.
The car hit a tree and landed on its side. All three occupants were thrown from the car.
Larry Keener was listed in critical condition Friday at the Robert Packer Hospital in Bradford County, a spokeswoman said.
Ms. Dieter's grandmother, Ruth Dieter, said she believes ''the Lord stepped in'' and saved her granddaughter's life.
''She said, 'Grandma, I was born the first time on June the 3rd, 1968. I was born the second time on September the 14th, 1991,''' Ruth Dieter said.
Ms. Dieter said she does feel like she has been given a second chance.
''And once I get some sleep, I'm going to start working on it,'' she said.