The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 27, 2013

Crash death ruled a homicide

Victim stabbed 70 times, coroner says

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP — Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III officially ruled the death of a well-known Greenville businessman a homicide after an autopsy showed more than 70 stab wounds on his body.

Frank Crash’s body was examined by pathologist Dr. Eric Vey in Erie Friday morning. McGonigle was not willing to say what kind of weapon may have been used to stab Crash, preferring that Mercer County District Attorney Bob Kochems provide further details after the investigation is finished.

Pamela Higbee, of Greenville, who told police she went to her father’s home when he didn’t show up for work at the auto wrecking business he’s owned since 1959.

According to court records, Higbee told police she found her father lying on the floor in a pool of blood, with a cell phone that had been snapped in two lying beside him.

Police said it appears someone broke in through the back door of the home at 362 Mercer Ave. The home phone was also ripped from the wall, police said.

On Thursday Hempfield Township police requested three search warrants from Mercer County District Judge Ronald E. Antos to search Crash’s home and garage, along with four vehicles for evidence, as well as for the murder weapon. Police also requested cell phone records from Verizon, looking at text messages and data use on Crash’s phone.

No one has been arrested nor any suspects named, according to investigators.

An affidavit filed at Antos’ office Thursday said police wanted to speak with another daughter of Crash, Susan Brenneman, of 21 S. Mercer St., Greenville, because an off-duty officer said he saw her walking towards her father’s home early Wednesday afternoon. The officer said he when he saw Brenneman, between 1:30 and 2 p.m.,   she was dressed in a light blue shirt and blue jeans.

When police located Brenneman Thursday, she was walking near her apartment and had three BandAids wrapped around the 5th finger on her right hand, according to the affidavit. She told police she cut her finger opening a can, police said.

Police said they went to Brenneman’s apartment Thursday with a warrant to search it and met John Rice, who told police he lives there with Brenneman. Rice invited the police into the apartment while he carried items in from his car, police said.

According to the affidavit, while they were in the apartment, police spotted what they suspected was dried blood on the bathroom floor,  near the door.

Rice told police Brenneman told him she cut her finger on a can and he began to search for the can, police said, but couldn’t find it in the kitchen. Police said Rice suggested it might be in the garbage toter outside. Both the police and Rice looked in the toter and did not find the can, but found a light-blue shirt with what appears to be blood on it, police said.

According to police, the shirt looked as though it was “soaked in some type of chemical,” and Rice confirmed the shirt was Brenneman’s.

Police said they had been called to the apartment previously on July 22 for a complaint of a fight between Rice and Brenneman.

Hempfield Township police and the district attorney’s office did not release any other information about the homicide investigation Friday.

Robert G. Kochems, Mercer County district attorney, said he does not expect to have a press release before Monday.

“We’re in what we call the vacuum cleaner stage,” Kochems said. “We’re trying to collect as much evidence as possible.”