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If needed, State police should also take up Perkasie’s unsolved murder

Note: This is the editoral I wrote for the Bucks County Herald in October.

On Sunday, Perkasie Borough police asked for help solving a 58-year-old murder mystery. I had requested this late this summer as a Perkasie council member, after stumbling on the case while researching another topic.

krteschmarcaseOur police have shown due diligence in considering this matter and should be commended. I also hope two other key investigators in the original case, the Pennsylvania State police and Bucks County detectives, will take part if needed in the probe.

In July, I started researching the history of Perkasie’s Walnut Street bridge, which is now being demolished, and I came upon the 1959 case of Mabel Kretshmar. After 58 years, no one knows who killed her as she was walking to a prayer service on Friday evening, February 13, about one mile away from her apartment near the Perkasie Police station.

Just after stepping off the bridge, a man grabbed Kretshmar, 58, and dragged her into a muddy field next to the Perkiomen Creek. The man kicked Kretshmar in the chest and stole her purse.  About six hours later, Kretshmar died. All of her left ribs were broken and she had a lacerated liver.

Veteran Pennsylvania State Police detective John P. Mitchell led the manhunt to find Kretshmar’s killer. He made headlines several months earlier when he captured an 18-year-old man in Silverdale, Ronald Eugene Storck, who had taken over a farm house and barricaded himself inside with seven rifles and 800 rounds of ammunition.

Local newspapers reported the extensive investigation over the next six weeks. Mitchell’s team included 25 investigators from the state police, Bucks County detectives, and local police, and two full-time stenographers. Right away, they had a promising clue. A witness driving over the bridge saw a younger man trailing Kretshmar as she left it. The witness said the man, walking about 20 feet behind Kretshmar, had a noticeable limp and walked with long strides. Police then found crime scene footprints matching that description.

Investigators located a second witness offering a similar description. Soon, sketches flooded regional newspapers, post offices and other public places of a man wearing a wool cap and wool jacket as the prime suspect. Mitchell’s team was flooded with tips from as far away as Maryland.

Over the next six weeks, the team interviewed many local residents. Mitchell worked so hard that he underwent emergency surgery after three weeks to fix an undisclosed ailment. Another state police investigator, Herbert Gemmill, stepped in as several thousand pages of interviews were compiled by the state police. But the team wasn’t able to make an arrest.

Today Perkasie police have taken the lead in looking at the case again and have reviewed the state police files. It would be most fitting if the state police were to also use their extensive resources, if needed, to help. I’m not sure how the Bucks County detective’s office can also help – we’ll leave that to the current investigators.

While it is a long shot, hopefully some new clues or remembrances can give closure to a murder with a haunting effect on Perkasie over the years. Newspaper reports at the time indicated male hair samples and a partial fingerprint were found on Kretshmar and were sent to a Harrisburg lab for analysis.

If you have information, you call Perkasie Police at 215-257-6876, submit an anonymous tip at 267-517-0099 or email info@perkasiepd.org.

Scott Bomboy is a Perkasie Borough Council member and editor in chief of the National Constitution Center. His opinions here don’t reflect the views of these organizations.

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