Ambler woman pleads guilty but mentally ill to killing grandmother, sentenced to 12 ½ years

Jim Melwert
February 24, 2020 - 2:22 pm
Nicole Cadwalader

Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio


NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A 32-year-old Montgomery County woman will spend at least 12 ½ years in state prison, after she pleaded guilty but mentally ill to stabbing and beating her grandmother to death.

Nicole Cadwalader broke down in tears as she apologized to her mother, adding through sobs that she’ll miss her grandmother, Sharon Burke, forever, and she wishes she could take back what she did.

Cadwalader pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder. She is sentenced to 12 ½ to 25 years in state prison. 

In June 2018, Cadwalader slashed her grandmother’s throat and beat her with a frying pan and a baseball bat in their home on Chestnut Street in Ambler. According to charging documents, she told police she killed her grandmother because she believed Burke was “a wretched, evil woman.”

Cadwalader’s lawyer, Carrie Allman, pointed to testimony from a psychiatric expert who said Cadwalader has been dealing with mental health issues — including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — since at least 2005.

“It’s a sad commentary on the way we deal with and address mental health issues,” Allman said. “Hopefully we can shine a little bit of a light on the need for serious mental health treatment and needs in the community.”

Prosecutor Richard Bradbury said the guilty but mentally ill plea “takes into account her acceptance for responsibility for the murder and acknowledged it is clearly a murder.” But it also recognizes that mental illness was a contributing factor.

“It also ensures she’ll have ongoing treatment for that during her time in prison and then, if paroled, during her time on parole,” he added.

After she killed her grandmother, Cadwalader went to a friend’s house and then to Ambler police, where she told them what she did. 

She was treated for mental health issues and put on medication, including antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs. The psychiatric expert testified that the drugs have stabilized her and are managing her symptoms.

Cadwalader will remain on that medication while in prison and during any time on parole.