Out the Door, and She Vanished

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Ed. Note: The following story won a 2003 Associated Press Managing Editors association first place award in feature writing.Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

March 6, 2004

OUT THE DOOR, AND SHE VANISHED

BYLINE: DAWN SHURMAITIS

LENGTH: 1562 words

No coat. No purse. No note.

No Phylicia.

When 22-year-old Phylicia Thomas stepped into 13-degree cold near midnight on Feb. 11, the only thing she carried was her ever-present Camel menthols.

When she left, her boyfriend was snoozing on the couch of their Hunlock Creek home. All Ed Rudaski remembers – after a hypnotist coaxed it out – is the sound of a car door closing.

No one has seen or heard from Phylicia since.

“How can somebody disappear and nobody knows nothing?” asks Phylicia’s mother, Pauline Bailey, who says three psychics contacted by family members believe her daughter is being held against her will, either in a barn or basement. One psychic, she says, saw the death card. Read the rest…

Mobster Profile: Just a Good Fella?

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Page: 1A 
By DAWN SHURMAITIS; Times Leader Staff Writer

To his friends and acquaintances, he’s just plain Billy, a quiet,
churchgoing man who keeps his lawn trimmed and his blinds closed.

To state investigators, William D’Elia is a reputed mobster, positioned to
become interim caretaker of the powerful Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra.
Will the real Billy D’Elia please stand up? Read the rest…

TRAGEDY IN A TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILY

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BOB BACHMAN, WHO POLICE SAY WAS
FATALLY SHOT BY HIS FATHER, SEEMED TO HAVE
EVERYTHING GOING FOR HIM BEFORE HIS
LIFE UNRAVELED, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS SAY

Sunday, May 14, 1995

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS; Times Leader Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE — When Robert “Bob” Bachman graduated from Meyers High School
in 1978, teachers and friends predicted the brilliant boy with the shy
smile would become as successful as his father, a doctor.

The saxophone-playing, jazz-loving teen might even become famous.
Bachman did land in the newspapers two weeks ago, but in a way that stunned
the middle-class neighborhood where he grew up.

Bachman, 34, died May 5 of three gunshot wounds to the chest after being
shot in his bedroom by his father, police said.

Dr. Paul Bachman, a retired podiatrist, reportedly told police he “couldn’t
take it any more” and shot his son to save his wife’s life. Read the rest…

Real-Life CSI

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FORENSIC EXPERTS USUALLY HIDDEN HEROES OF CRIME SOLVING
STATE POLICE SPECIALISTS ANALYZE EVIDENCE ON
EVERYTHING FROM DEER MEAT IN KIELBASI TO BLOOD AT A
MURDER SCENE

Sunday, December 3, 1995

By DAWN SHURMAITIS; Times Leader Staff Writer

A strand of hair, a speck of blood, a tiny slice of human tissue.

From such bits of evidence, the forensic scientist can tell an untold
number of tales about long-gone criminals and ever-silent victims.
At the squat, square state police crime lab in Wyoming, five forensic
specialists tackle thousands of cases a year. Through the use of computers,
microscopes and chemical analysis, the scientists help investigators in 13
Northeastern Pennsylvania counties catch crooks and secure convictions.

Business is booming. Read the rest…

A DECADE OF DILIGENCE

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POLICE NEVER GAVE UP TRYING TO MAKE ARRESTS IN THE MURDERER OF JOYCE ANN
HARDING, WHO WAS SLAIN IN 1985

Sunday, October 29, 1995

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS

Within 48 hours of Joyce Ann Harding’s disappearance on Sept. 19, 1985,
investigators zeroed in on two suspects: members of the notoriously violent
Warlocks motorcycle club.

But it took 10 years of dogged legwork for investigators to secure enough
hard evidence to implicate Mark Conaway and Larry Robbins in the shooting
death of the 25-year-old Tunkhannock woman.

From the start, police pegged Conaway as the trigger man and Robbins his
willing accomplice. Residents of Delaware County outside Philadelphia, the
bikers met Harding during a chance encounter in a Wyoming County bar.

“They were always the prime suspects. There was never a question in
investigators’ minds,” says Cpl. William Strong of the state police at
Dunmore. “It was just a matter of getting proof.” Read the rest…

Ted Kennedy: Apology for Mary Jo

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MEMORIES SUSTAIN GRIEVING PARENTS

Sunday, July 10, 1994

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS; Times Leader Staff Writer

SWIFTWATER — Two simple words: I’m sorry.

That’s all Gwen and Joe Kopechne ever really wanted from Sen. Ted Kennedy,
the driver of the car that plunged off a bridge 25 years ago, killing the
Kopechnes’ only child, Mary Jo.

They didn’t want money.

Even today, Gwen Kopechne bristles at persistent gossip the family used
Kennedy “blood money” to buy its one-story retirement home in the Poconos.

The Kopechnes did receive a $140,923 settlement from Kennedy’s insurance
company, but they insist it was always their plan to use their savings to
retire in the Poconos. Mary Jo, says her mother, loved it there. Read the rest…

SEX, LIES AND MYSTERY IN A SMALL TOWN

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Sunday, July 9, 1995

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS

It’s lunchtime at Public Avenue Deli in Montrose and the talk over turkey
club sandwiches, as usual, concerns the doctor, the lawyer, the wife and
the shooting.

The latest buzz among the secretaries lined up at the register is the
graying doctor’s tearful challenge to state police to charge him — after
19 years — with murdering his best friend, the doctor.

“You have no idea how traumatic it’s been. Arrest me so we can go on with
this trial and I can forget the last 19 years,” Dr. Stephen Scher pleaded
June 27 at a press conference in Waverly.

The day before, Susquehanna County Coroner Robert Bartron announced
prominent lawyer Martin “Marty” Dillon did not die in a hunting accident in
1976 but was a homicide victim.

The suspected killer? Scher, the husband of Dillon’s widow, Patricia. Read the rest…

Mary Jo Kopechne: 25 Years Later

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25 YEARS LATER: WHISPERS OF A YOUNG LIFE LOST

Sunday, July 10, 1994

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS

Even in death, Mary Jo Kopechne didn’t get top billing.

The most important thing wasn’t that she died. It was where she died —
inside the submerged car of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The investigators gathering at Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island that
muggy morning of July 19, 1969, didn’t even know the dead girl’s name.

Kopechne, a 28-year-old Forty Fort native, had no identification. Police on
the Massachusetts island assumed she was Rosemary Keough, the name found in
a purse recovered from the overturned Oldsmobile 88.

It wasn’t until a freshly showered and dressed Kennedy finally appeared at
the Edgartown police station — 10 hours after the accident — that police
heard the name Mary Jo Kopechne for the first time. Read the rest…

Crash of Flight 800

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A DAUGHTER OF MONTOURSVILLE COMES HOME
T-SHIRT, SNEAKERS AND `JANE EYRE’
OFFERED ON THE ALTAR HELP TELL THE STORY
OF A VIBRANT LIFE ENDED TOO SOONThursday, July 25, 1996

Page: 1A
By DAWN SHURMAITIS; Times Leader Staff Writer

MONTOURSVILLE — On the altar of the Catholic church, next to the water and
wine, lay a frayed pair of sneakers, a faded black T-shirt and a paperback
so often read that its cover was gone.

The stuff of life. Monica Cox’s life.

During her funeral Wednesday, Monica’s family brought their own version of
“offerings” to the altar. More than the eloquent sermon, or the tearful
eulogies, the green sneakers, Grateful Dead shirt and copy of “Jane Eyre”
told Monica’s story best. Read the rest…

HIS BROTHER’S KILLER STILL RUNS FREE

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BY Dawn Shurmaitis

Monday, December 4, 1995

About a week ago, Lee Atkinson had a dream about his long-dead brother,
Bill. In the dream, the two brothers laughed and talked and had a helluva
time together.

Lee took the dream as a sign.

It was time to get people thinking about Bill again, and the gunman who
killed him Jan. 12, 1987.

“Nobody should get away with murder,” says Lee. Read the rest…

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