Shauna Howe investigation intensifies
The Derrick, 3/15/02, By LISA THOMPSON
Special thanks to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted
Photo by Jerry Sowden - State Police and State Forensic Investigators enter Eldred "Ted" Walker's home at 43 Laurel Ave. in Oil City Thursday evening during the execution of a search warrant.
Following weeks of reported activity, the 10-year investigation of an Oil City Girl Scout's unsolved murder surfaced publicly Thursday in a late evening search of a leaning hillside home in Oil City's East End.
Arriving at nightfall, state police and an FBI agent for hours searched 43
Laurel Ave., a narrow, vinyl-sided frame home that perches on a steep slope
overlooking Route 62.
Marked and unmarked cruisers, as well as an evidence collection van, lined the sides of the poorly lit, rutted street that cuts a narrow path along the heavily wooded incline. Officers swept the sloping back yard of the two-story frame house with flashlight beams, as troopers and a forensics team wearing dark jumpsuits went to and from the house. Little activity could be seen inside the home. A string of jewel-toned Christmas lights lit up the home's dark porch, where an American flag hung like a curtain.
Periodically, blue strobe-like flashes of light flared in the upstairs windows as the team took photographs.
Eldred "Ted" Walker, the owner of the home, was not there at the time of the search and could not be reached for immediate comment late Thursday. He has not been charged with any crime. There are many reasons a house could be searched in connection with an investigation.
State police in Franklin declined to comment on the search, saying only that it was part of an ongoing investigation. They said it is their policy not to release information regarding ongoing investigations.
"There is an ongoing investigation being conducted at that location. As to what it is and who is involved, it would be irresponsible for us to comment," said Trooper David Wargo, public information officer.
However, sources told the newspaper that the search was being conducted in conjunction with the Shauna Howe murder investigation.
Howe was abducted Oct. 27, 1992 at the corner of West First and Reed streets
as she walked home from a Girl Scout Halloween party. Her broken body was found
beneath a Rockland Township railroad trestle two and a half days later. Despite
an intensive investigation that has carried police back and forth across the
country and involved everything from DNA analysis to the use of FBI profilers,
her killer has never been found.
Thursday's search came amid reports of increased activity in recent weeks, including interviews with area residents. Commenting on those reports recently, Cpl. Mark Zaleski, public information officer in Erie, said only that police were continuing their investigation of the case.
He and others at the Franklin barracks have repeatedly declined to confirm
widespread reports that there have been significant developments in the case in
Activity in the case has waxed and waned repeatedly over the last 10 years. Recently, in September 1999, police and FBI agents conducted a high-profile search at the former Reed Street residence of a Connecticut prison inmate, in an apparent effort to link him to the case. In letters to the newspaper Michael Kucewicz, who was serving time in a Connecticut prison on prescription drug and forgery charges, adamantly maintained his innocence. Police later announced that nothing was taken from his former home that would implicate him in the crime. He was termed a "less likely" suspect.
Likewise, in October 2000, FBI agents and state police twice searched the
former home of Richard and Diane Jobes on Elm Street in Franklin amid reports
that Diane Jobes had implicated her husband in the crime. Both were serving
sentences in state prison at the time for indecent assaults on visiting nurses
who cared for the Jobes' disabled children.
One media outlet termed the pair "prime suspects" but state police insistently maintained that the searches of the Jobes' former residence were part of an ongoing investigation. They said that if anything significant developed, they would immediately release it.
Howe's murder has long haunted the community.
A witness, Dan Paden of Oil City, saw a man approach her. Then he heard a scream and both were gone.
A massive search ensued, but two and a half days later, a family acquaintance found her shattered body lying on a rock in East Sandy Creek. The spot was in the same vicinity where an uncle had found a piece of her clothing the day before.
Howe was the daughter of Robert Howe and Lucy Brown. No one has ever been charged with her death.
A $15,000 reward awaits those who provide information leading to the arrest
of her killer.