Forty years after her murder, Peggy Reber may be exhumed.
Authorities are considering exhuming the body of Margaret Lynn "Peggy" Reber, a Lebanon teenager whose sadistic torture and murder nearly 40 years ago remains unsolved. However, exhumation of Reber's remains was just one of a number of recent dramatic twists in the more than two-year reinvestigation by local police.
On March 24 Lebanon Mayor Bob Anspach personally fired Det. Kevin Snavely, the officer who reopened the Reber file in January 2006. And last week the county's chief prosecutor said for the first time that police are investigating "a number of different people we are not able to exclude," including the man who was acquitted of the May 25, 1968, slaying, Arthur McKinley Root Jr.
Root, who was 27 at the time of the murder, already had a lengthy criminal history before he was accused of killing Reber. He's believed to be incarcerated in a prison somewhere in the southwestern United States.
District attorney David Arnold's statements contradict what a police officer told the Lebanon Daily News after traveling to the unnamed prison and interviewing Root. The officer, according to the story, came away from the talk believing in Root's innocence.
But Arnold apparently isn't yet buying that story. "Art Root has not been eliminated as a possible suspect. That is fair to say," the county prosecutor says. Arnold declined to speak about Snavely's situation or how that will affect the investigation.
Anspach acknowledges that he fired Snavely, but he won't say why. "If one personally believes someone did something they should be fired for, they should be able to sit across from them at a table and tell them," which is what Anspach says he did with Snavely.
Anspach says Snavely can appeal his firing to the Civil Service Commission, the Lebanon City Council or the police union. The first two options would involve public hearings. "I would welcome those," Anspach says.
Snavely hasn't spoken publicly about whether the dismissal was related to his investigation into who killed Reber, who was left home alone by her mother and was first assaulted, then bitten viciously, strangled, sodomized and vaginally penetrated with an archer's bow.
Root was seen by two people around the time of the murder leaving the Maple Leaf Apartments, where Reber and her family lived. Fibers from his suit were found under Reber's fingernails, and threads from a blanket in the Reber home were later found on him. A predominantly female jury deliberated for less than three hours before acquitting Root on Feb. 19, 1970.
Family members of the slain teen--her father Herman Reber and identical twin sister Kathy Meador--have consented to exhuming the girl's body.
"My family signed a paper in the DA's office allowing [Arnold] to do anything he deems necessary to find justice for Peggy," Meador, who did not return several calls for this story, told the local paper. "I would think exhumation could be involved in that because that goes to anything they need to do."
While exhumation is an option, Arnold declines to say whether it will happen.
Over the past several months Michelle Gooden, a former Lebanon resident now living in North Carolina, has been hosting a website for people looking for information about the Reber case and a place to express their opinions. Gooden, Meador and other regular contributors to the site have lionized Snavely for his efforts in solving the case and have pointed cryptically to one possible suspect--a person they don't name.
But Gooden has also publicly castigated both Anspach and Arnold for not moving fast enough to solve the case and turning over the investigation to a grand jury. Gooden has said on numerous occasions that "a killer walks among you."
Arnold doesn't dispute that, but says Gooden and other citizen-investigators don't have all the facts.
"They do have somebody in mind," Arnold says of Gooden and the blog contributors. And while that person is of interest to law enforcement, "Unfortunately for them, they don't have all the evidence that exists in this case, and they base their opinions on how things appear and not how they really are."
With few leads left to follow, authorities in Lebanon County, Pa., have determined that very little hope remains in identifying the killer of 14-year-old Margaret Lynn “Peggy” Reber.
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