For the past six months, to think of Alburtis has meant to think of unsolved murder.
It has meant to think of a white home at 122 Cobblestone Court, with a defenseless woman and her daughter inside.
It has meant Althea. It has meant Jeannette.
In the days after the borough's police chief responded to a call at the home on March 11 and found two of the borough's most well-known and colorful residents murdered inside, life in Alburtis, the smallest municipality in Lehigh County, changed.
Residents stopped leaving doors and windows open. Trust in visitors — and sometimes neighbors — was shaken. Rumor was treated as fact.
Few details about the killings have been released, and how the Walberts died remains a mystery.
Some residents feared a killer walked among them until Chief Robert Palmer declared the killings of 82-year-old Althea Walbert and her mentally disabled daughter, Jeannette, 59, were an isolated incident, and the Walberts the targets of "a crime of opportunity."
Half a year later, things are beginning to get back to normal in Alburtis, as much as a town that just experienced the first murders in its history can get back to normal.
There have been no arrests in the case but rumors and talk of the killings have decreased significantly. Police are back to dealing with the typical grind — disturbances and minor acts of vandalism.
And in the clearest sign that life is moving forward: A new family soon will move into the Walberts' house, which stands alone among rows of town homes.
"Everything's good here," Palmer said recently. "We're in a good state of mind."
Palmer said the rumors, most dealing with how and why the Walberts were killed, have calmed. Some still float around, however, including the latest about how the killer or killers fled the country, he said.
"I still get questions about what's happening with the case," he said. "State police are doing the investigation, and I don't get daily news updates."
State police say they are working diligently, but are not releasing any details. Police theorize that only the killer or killers know exactly how the Walberts died.
State police said they were seeking information about activity around the Walbert home between March 7 and March 11. Neighbors reported hearing nothing the night before the killings.
Many residents speculated that Althea Walbert's money was the reason she was killed, and police appear to agree by labeling the case a crime of opportunity. Althea Walbert, a widow and former pig farmer who sold off her family's properties, was known to carry large amounts of cash, sometimes thousands of dollars.
Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin refused to comment.
Months after the killing, the only people stopping their vehicles to gaze at the Walbert home were likely those who may have been interested in buying it, or those amazed to see it sold.
The Walberts' home , was put up for sale in May and went off the market in early August. The buyer is still a mystery. Several calls to the Realtor handling the sale were not returned. Palmer said he doesn't know who bought it.
The Walbert estate was left to the church where Althea Walbert and her husband were married. The same church offered a $50,000 reward in late May to help catch the killer.
A floral cross left in remembrance of the Walberts still leans against the detached garage at the home, but the "sold" sign is what caught the eye of 27-year-old Justin Niessner recently.
"We were on vacation and returned to find the sold sign," said Niessner, who lives next to the Walbert home. "Never saw anyone come look at the home, so I'm curious to see who the new neighbors are."
Further down the street, Ayesha White, 32, was amazed to see the home sold so quickly.
"Oh my God, I hope they know," she said. "They have to know."
While most neighbors are curious to meet their new neighbor, they mostly see the sale of the home as a sign of moving forward.
Jeanne Reddinger, 48, said people will always talk about the killings, but she doesn't hear rumors like she did in the early days after the Walberts were discovered.
"Police are doing their job," she said. "I'm confident they'll catch whoever did it.
"I just hope this doesn't turn into one of those cold cases."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun