The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 1, 2014

Solving murder case takes time

DA explains delays in Crash investigation

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP — “Any update on the Frank Crash murder investigation?”

That is a frequent question for Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems.

“We’re building a case,” Kochems responds. “There’s lots of directions we logically need to check.”

Crash, a Greenville-area businessman, was found stabbed to death in his Hempfield Township home last July. He was 76.

Investigators are being careful to dot all the I’s and cross every T, the DA said.

“There’s an ethical obligation to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kochems said. “Our preference is to have that much evidence at the beginning of the case. At least we need probable cause as determined by the magistrate.”

“We’re talking to lots of people because he was a very well-known, public figure,” Kochems said. “We will follow our process to its conclusion, however long that takes.”

And due to the large amount of evidence collected, Kochems expects “however long” to be a long time.

Police gathered 90 major pieces of evidence, including blood samples, to be tested for DNA, gunshot residue and fingerprints and to be chemically analyzed at the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab in Erie. Only 12 items can be submitted at a time.

The next phase of the investigation had officials interviewing scores of people who interacted with Crash, including family, friends, employees, business associates and other acquaintances.

All those people were asked to provide a DNA sample through a cheek swab, Kochems said.

Each swab will be compared to the evidence as it is submitted to the crime lab. “This can rule people out or it can rule people in,” Kochems said.

In mid-January, Kochems announced that the first 12 of the 90 major pieces of evidence had been processed. They had been sent to the lab in August and results were expected by the end of October.

The next 12 pieces of evidence were sent to the lab more than two months ago and results have not been returned.

Based on the length of time this process has already taken, the DA’s office is not expecting new DNA results in the near future, Kochems said, adding the current investigation could be resolved at any time without those results.

A problem the crime lab may encounter is lack of ample DNA from the evidence to make comparisons, Kochems said.

Kochems said he thinks it is important the process of the investigation is clear and understandable to the public.

“It’s not like we’re not doing anything,” he said. “I want people to understand the components. We want them to believe that when we present it, it is the best that we could do.”

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