Murder of Shauna Howe

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Shauna Howe
BornJuly 11, 1981
DiedOctober 27, 1992(1992-10-27) (aged 11)
Cause of deathBlunt force trauma
Known forChild homicide victim

Shauna Melinda Howe (July 11, 1981 – October 27, 1992) was an 11-year-old girl from Oil City, Pennsylvania, who was murdered in October 1992. Howe's kidnapping and killing by being thrown from a bridge became a cause célèbre in Pennsylvania, receiving widespread media attention for over a decade. Finally, in September 2006, Eldred “Ted” Walker, James O'Brien, and Timothy O'Brien were convicted for participation in Howe's murder.

Background[edit]

Around 8pm on October 27, Howe was walking home from a Girl Scouts Halloween party in Oil City, Pennsylvania, when she was abducted at the corner of West First Street and Reed Street, two blocks from home.[1][2] A local resident, Dan Paden, however, witnessed the kidnapping, thereby providing investigators with details of the circumstances, the abductor and the getaway vehicle used.[3]

Two days later, a member of Howe's family found a piece of her gymnast costume near an abandoned railroad bed in a rural, wooded area in the nearby township of Rockland. Despite a search of the area the day before, Howe's body was found about 200 yards from where the clothing was found the next morning. Howe's abductors had thrown her alive from a railroad trestle bridge into a dry, rocky creek bed near Coulter's Hole in Rockland, and she had died of blunt force trauma to the head and chest caused by the fall.

Investigation[edit]

The mystery of Howe's disappearance and murder continued for nearly ten years until the investigation had a major breakthrough. In 2002, a DNA sample taken from Oil City resident James O'Brien, who was serving a prison sentence for attempting to kidnap an Oil City woman in 1995, matched a sample of seminal DNA found on Howe's body in tests run by the FBI lab in Washington, D.C. O’Brien had not been a suspect earlier as investigators mistakenly believed he was in jail at the time of the attack, and neither of the brothers fit the eyewitness description.

The DNA revelation intensified the investigation, with increased presence in the area by the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police, with the latter searching the home of Eldred "Ted" Walker, who said he may have opened his home to some "really bad" people once who may have done "a disgusting thing."[1] An early suspect, Walker and one of his vehicles had resembled those provided by the witness, but the investigation at the time stalled as his DNA did not match.

Trial[edit]

In September 2006, Walker, as part of a plea bargain, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and third degree murder and agreed to testify against the O'Brien brothers. In court, he admitted grabbing Howe and passing her to the O’Briens who were waiting in a parked car. He also admitted knowing the brothers were upstairs in his house with the girl as he heard her crying.[4] He, however, denied any involvement in her death. In October, as the trial ended, the brothers were found guilty of kidnapping, conspiracy and second and third-degree murder, but were acquitted on charges of first degree murder and rape.

Legacy[edit]

Following Howe's murder, the Oil City Council voted to prohibit night-time trick-or-treating. The ban remained in place for 15 years, before being lifted in time for Halloween 2008.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thompson, Lisa (2002-03-16). "DNA link ignites Howe case". The Derrick. Venango Newspapers, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2006-10-28.
  2. ^ "Case 111: Shauna Howe". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. 2019-05-18. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  3. ^ Hicks, Jess (2016-10-21). "The True Story of "The Town That Banned Halloween"". The 13th Floor. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  4. ^ "Brothers guilty in killing of 11-year-old girl". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  5. ^ Plushnick-Masti, Ramit (2008-10-30). "Real Halloween Back for Long Traumatized Pennsylvania Town". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-30.[dead link]