Peggy Reber: Cold Case

A grand jury looks for a killer but only finds more villains in the 1968 Peggy Reber murder.

By Kevin Uhrich and Martha Shaak
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 9, 2009

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While they spent a great amount of time looking for Reber’s killer, members of the grand jury spent practically as much time investigating—then vilifying—author Gooden, accusing her of feeding ideas to Kathy Meador, Reber’s sister, and Ray; claims that Gooden vehemently disputes. As for her supposed influence on Detective Snavely, who dusted off the case in January 2006 and almost from the start suspected Dick Boyer, Gooden said Snavely is a trained criminal investigator—she isn’t. 

“Any information provided to Snavely by me, whether factual or not, was a facet of his investigation, and always was subject to his professionally trained investigative skills and his thorough objective and professional review,” Gooden wrote through her attorney, Harry Fenton.

Gooden had been raked over the coals so often throughout the grand jury report for focusing her own investigation on Boyer that supervising Lebanon County Judge Bradford Charles gave her a chance to reply, which Gooden and Fenton did in an 11-page filing.

“My influence of witnesses and the stories they tell is limited to encouraging each and every one to tell the total truth as they recall it and know it,” she wrote.

“They’ve called this an unsolved crime for the past 40 years and they will be talking about the fiasco of this grand jury for the next 20,” Gooden said of the final report.

All told, Peggy Reber is mentioned by name in the report 73 times. Dick Boyer is mentioned 67 times and Gooden, who referred to the grand jury as “Dick Boyer’s legal team,” is cited 63 times.

Gooden said she met Meador in 2000, and that it was Meador who told her that she suspected her former husband of the killing. Gooden insists that she had no further contact with Meador until 2008. And even then, Meador’s story did not change.
Neither did that of Ray Boyer, who Gooden said repeatedly made claims to her that his brother had killed the teen. Only when the time came to testify did Boyer say that he got his information about the investigation from Gooden and Snavely, who presumably got his information from Gooden.

When her turn came to take the stand, Meador told the grand jury that it was Gooden who suggested that Dick killed Reber. And, “Like Ray Boyer, Kathryn Meador was not able to provide any objective facts in support of the widely held theory that Richard Boyer participated in this murder.” In fact, Meador appeared confused and virtually nothing that Ray Boyer said panned out, including his contention that authorities never solved the crime because they were covering up for a prominent person. When asked to name one such person he saw at the Maple Leaf, Boyer failed to come up with a single name.

As to the guilt or innocence of Dick Boyer, affirms the report, “we heard absolutely no competent, credible or reliable evidence from which to conclude that Richard Boyer was involved in Reber’s murder.”

Meador has not returned numerous calls for comment. Dick and Ray Boyer could not be reached. District Attorney Dave Arnold uncharacteristically did not return several calls for comment.

In the end, members of the jury found that “The murder of Peggy Reber was a horrific crime,” and acknowledged that the murder investigation was complicated by “the unfortunate and dysfunctional environment in which Peggy was raised. We are disappointed to conclude that some who were the most vocal advocates of ‘Justice for Peggy’ [as Gooden’s website and the communitywide movement to have the DA take some action came to be called] were motivated by interests wholly unrelated to legitimate interests of justice.”

One problem was, “They didn’t plan on investigating Michelle Gooden,” Gooden says, referring to herself in the third person. “But that’s exactly what they did.” And that’s okay, she says. “I don’t have anything to hide.”

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