At 9pm on the 6th of February 2016, Emmaus police received a call alerting them to a disturbance at the Emmaus Hotel on 424 Chestnut St, Upper Milford Township. A screaming woman was mentioned in a criminal complaint.
When an officer showed up to the scene he was directed to the third floor where two residents were attempting to save the life of a teenage boy who appeared to have been stabbed and was surrounded with a pool of his own blood. The boy was taken to the nearest hospital but unfortunately died from his injuries later that night at 10:21pm.
The victim was a nineteen year old named Cooper T. Wertman. A later autopsy revealed that the teenager had been stabbed in the chest, back and abdomen a total of 18 times. Most of the stab wounds were concentrated around his lower back. At some point the knife had penetrated his heart.
Cooper Wertman was pursuing a career in writing and had dreams of a music career, producing his own raps. Following the news of his death an online friend uploaded a rough mix of one of Cooper’s songs along with a touching note and an appeal for anyone with more tracks to submit them. An issue of “The Stinger”, the Emmaus High School's student-run newspaper, dedicated the entire front page to the loss their fellow student. Wertman graduated from Emmaus high with a GED in 2015. Those who knew him remembered him fondly: “He was a class clown, but in a good way”, “He could always make me smile”. Cooper was curious and trusting by nature and it’s believed that his killer took advantage of this to lure him out to the Emmaus hotel.
Another officer responding to the call noticed a man covered in blood walking in the opposite direction to the boarding house. The officer pulled over and asked the bloodied civilian if he was involved in a crime that had just occurred to which the man responded he was. “I did it” he admitted. “I stabbed him”. He identified himself as 25 year old Steven E. Dreisbach and confirmed that the hotel room Cooper T. Wertman had been stabbed to death in was his. The hotel owner, a Mrs. Susan Wentzel, told investigators that Dreisbach was a new resident of the building and that he’d only moved there a couple of months before the incident. She went on to explain that she and her husband had ran the hotel for over four decades and had never had any problems from any of the residents.
Dreisbach was calm and collected when answering questions. He gave the officer access to his phone, even inputting his password so the detective could read through his messages on Facebook chat where he had attempted to lure in a friend as an accomplice earlier that night.
Instant messages from Dreisbach to a friend indicate that Dreisbach premeditated the crime. In the text based conversation he confessed that he wanted to kill someone so he wouldn’t have to pay the $90 for the hash he was planning to buy. He explained that he had someone coming over to his hotel room that night to sell him drugs, but said he didn’t intend to pay for them and instead would kill the seller.
His friend responded that he didn’t want any part in the crime and would later admit to the police that he thought Dreisbach was joking.
Later that night, Cooper Wertman showed up to the Emmanus hotel and the pair smoked hashish together in Dreisbach’s room. When the time came for Dreisbach to pay up he asked Cooper to turn around so he wouldn’t see where he kept his cash. Instead of picking up the $90 he grabbed a knife that he had stashed nearby and began stabbing Cooper repeatedly.
He told investigators that Coopers face then morphed into the face of Jesus Christ and that he heard the voice of Satan in his head ordering him to “keep stabbing, keep killing”, so he did.
Steven E. Dreisbach had a long list of mental illness. He was first hospitalized when he was just 14 years old, and since then had been diagnosed with various mental illnesses including Schizophrenia. He had been hospitalized several times after suffering symptoms of psychosis and although he had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication he neglected to take it. Steven decided he would self-medicate with hashish, a drug not equipped to deal with the symptoms of schizophrenia. Self-medicating, usually with drugs or alcohol, is very common among people with mental illness. Up to 50% of people with Schizophrenia will not recognize that they even suffer from the illness and will oftentimes neglect to take their medication.
Steven Dreisbach had just been released from a stint at Horsham Clinic only two months before he stabbed Conner Wertman to death. Although he was supposed to return for routine meetings after his release from hospital he failed to do so. His family tried their best to get him help over the years, and Dreisbach’s mother could do nothing but apologize to Conner’s mother in court. “I hate what my son has done…he deserves to be in prison” she said.
In March of 2017 in court Dreisbach pleaded guilty with mental illness to third degree robbery and murder and apologized to Wertman’s family telling them “I know it must be hard and I'm sorry. The guilt has been eating at me for the past 13 months”. He will continue to receive care for his mental illness (Currently taking medication for Bi-polar disorder) while serving out a 30-60 year prison sentence.