Tragedy in Four Acts
complaint against Thomas V. McAndrew for assault with intent to
kill. From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts
V. McAndrew: lead bad guy.
Reid: assistant bad guy.
Walter Reid from the Wilkes Barre Record”
G. “Bob” Rowan: assaultee.
Rowan: his wife.
Wolfe, Jr.: innocent third party ensnared by McAndrew in his
B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon : passing
day after Thanksgiving is traditionally known as “Black
Friday” in the retail trade. That is when shoppers typically mob
stores to begin the Christmas rush. What may have been a down year
turns from “in the red” to “in the black.” For
Bob Rowan, Black Friday, 1966 was the blackest day of all.
On that day, in the moonless hours of the evening, he
nearly lost his life.
of the major players:
Rowan had, by 1966, enjoyed two careers already. In
addition to being a commercial airline pilot for US Overseas
Airlines, he had owned Rowan Gas Service, a retailer of bottled
gas in Hanover, Luzerne County, PA. In his
40’s, he had “retired” to flying a turbojet as a private
pilot for Robert Moffat, chairman of the board of the Moffat Coal
Company, Inc. He had also sold his gas company
and invested the proceeds into Investors’ Variable Payment Fund,
a mutual fund run by Investors’ Diversified Services (IDS) of
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bob and his wife, Mary,
resided comfortably on Division Street in south Wilkes Barre, PA.
V. McAndrew was employed as a broker for IDS and worked in their
office in Nanticoke, PA. In that capacity, he
was Bob Rowan’s stock broker and financial advisor. McAndrew
lived in Bear Creek, PA.
Reid grew up in the Ashley suburb of Wilkes Barre but, in 1966,
worked as an ironworker in Cleveland, Ohio. He
often visited his home town on weekends and had known McAndrew for
about 20 years.
note: all of the following has been cobbled together from three
sources: contemporaneous articles written in the
Wilkes Barre Record (WBR); documents from the Luzerne County Clerk
Of Courts Office; and in a face-to-face interview with Mrs. Mary
Rowan in September, 2005. The WBR articles, as
is customary, are nowhere near as complete as trial transcripts
would be but their accounts should represent most of the
highlights. Some of McAndrew’s testimony
alludes to testimony that co-conspirator Reid must have given
during the prosecution’s case in chief. I
have chosen to impute that prior testimony even though it was NOT,
per se, carried in any of the articles. Mrs.
Rowan’s recollections were very valuable in that she was able to
explain some questions that the articles raised. Then,
too, I’m fairly sure that she and her husband were privy to
information from the State Police troopers that never did appear
in print or at the trials. Pete Wolfe, Jr.
refused to be interviewed for this article.]
I: the plot
had a gambling habit. Typical of gamblers, he
always needed money. As a stock broker, he had
access to substantial sums invested by his clients. Stealing some
of it proved to be no bar to satisfying his greed. He
ran through his client list, trying to decide who would be easiest
to steal from, and perhaps, more importantly which theft would be
easiest to cover up. His greed was such that
killing was not beyond his reach. One of his
clients was an elderly widow. It would be easy
enough to visit her and push her down a flight of stairs.
Disposing of the body would involve carrying her up the
stairs and off to another location so, for that or some other
reason, he discarded that notion.
eventually decided that Bob Rowan was a suitable target.
He’d steal Bob’s money, kill him, and bury him.
The fact that Bob’s money was jointly owned by Mary Rowan
was a complication. McAndrew would have to kill
both Bob and Mary to cover up the theft and, to do that, he’d
need help. He decided to enlist Walter Reid, a
20-year acquaintance. Reid often came home to
Ashley on weekends. McAndrew had loaned him various amounts over
the years, usually ranging from $500 to $700. Knowing
that Bob and Mary had well over $100,000 that he could steal,
McAndrew offered Reid $30,000 as his cut. Reid
accepted the offer.
early as Saturday, November 12, 1966, McAndrew had put the plan in
motion. On that day, he forged the Rowans’
signatures on a Request For Conversion of shares of the
Investors’ Variable Payment Fund owned by Robert and Mary Rowan.
[Reid later testified that he had watched McAndrew forge
the signatures and then take the form to the post office and mail
it. McAndrew had said to him “Once this goes out, we are
committed. There’s no way to back out.”]
The check for $132,175.35 was sent to McAndrew’s
Nanticoke office. This action was a trifle
premature. Bob Rowan received, at his home, a notice from the fund
that his shares had been sold. By November 12,
McAndrew and Reid hadn’t quite worked out the details of how
they would kill the Rowans. McAndrew was forced to explain to Bob
why the shares had been sold. Over coffee,
McAndrew explained that, as Bob’s investment advisor, he had
acted in Bob’s best interest, fearing a market slump.
Bob told him to mail the check back.
the weekend of November 19-20, 1966, Reid came home from Cleveland
again and the plotters worked on various scenarios. They
considered staging a fatal traffic accident by running a large
truck into the Rowans’ small car. They could
get access to Rowan’s home, knock them out, and then burn
the house down. Reid told McAndrew he
couldn’t do that. Like Bob, Reid had some
experience in aviation. As he later testified,
“McAndrew suggested I could rig Rowan’s
plane so that it would crash on take-off. I told him I wasn’t a
mechanic and had no idea how to do that. He
then suggested that, after we killed him I could bring in a larger
plane, load his body into it, and then drop it over the mountains
of West Virginia. I told him I couldn’t even
fly bodies for undertakers who asked me to, let alone that of a
guy I had a hand in killing.” They eventually settled on luring
the Rowans to a deserted country setting, killing them there, and
disposing of the bodies on site. This
method would lessen the chances of being seen.
thought of a casual friend, Peter Wolfe, Jr., who had a vacant
home for sale near Sylvan Lake in Ross Township.
WOLFE’S “ROCK HOUSE” ALONG BROADWAY ROAD BETWEEN BROADWAY
AND SWEET VALLEY. PHOTO BY RON HONTZ,
home had been the residence of its builder, Peter Wolfe, Sr., who
had operated Wolfe’s Grove for 30 years. The
Grove had closed in 1965 and Sr. had moved into Kingston to live
with his son, Pete, Jr. At the time of the
crimes, in 1966, Sr. still owned it but had put it up for sale.
By the time of the trials in 1968, Sr. had died (1967) and
it was still part of his estate.] McAndrew knew
that the home had a dirt cellar in which they could easily dig
graves. McAndrew finagled a key from Pete on
the premise that he would show it to a prospective buyer.
[Mary Rowan says that the State Police interrogated Pete
thoroughly and determined that he was in NO WAY connected
to the plot.]
die was cast on Friday, Nov. 25, 1966, the day after Thanksgiving,
when McAndrew deposited the check into Citizens Bank of Wilkes
Barre. It was deposited in an account bearing
the title “Thomas V. McAndrew-Investments.”
CHARGE OF FORGING THE CHECK.
From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
took the second step in the plot that same day when he and Reid
drove to the parking lot of the American Auto
store near McAndrew’s home. McAndrew’s daughter, 20-year-old
Theresa Mary, was in the habit of parking her
Corvair there. Her father had purchased, some
years ago, a blackjack that she could use for protection as she
commuted from Bear Creek to College Misericordia in Dallas. The
blackjack was kept in the Corvair’s glove compartment.
[Reid testified that he’d seen McAndrew remove the
blackjack from the Corvair but the date he did so was in question.
We should remember that testimony was being given nearly
two years after the events described. Reid said
it was done on November 23 but Theresa testified that she’d been
off work on that day. Her car, as was customary
when she was off, had been parked in her parents’ driveway on
that date. She was forced to admit, on
cross-examination by Asst. DA Joseph J. Gale: that she did work
and did park at the American Auto lot on the 25th ; and
that, as far as she knew, the blackjack was still in the car at
that time. The jury apparently overlooked the
discrepancy in the date. Reid also testified
that the .32 caliber handgun was McAndrew’s.]
2: Sylvan Lake
late in the afternoon\early evening of Friday, November 25, 1968
Bob and Mary Rowan were at home on Division Street in south Wilkes
Barre. Her father was visiting and they had
plans for a BarBQ dinner at home. Bob was on
his way out the door to buy the BarbQ when the phone rang.
It was Tom McAndrew and he was inviting both Bob and Mary
to join him for dinner at the Foothills Manor outside Shickshinny.
Manor Restaurant, Shickshinny PA.
Donated by Frank Regulski and Sheila Brandon.”
demurred, choosing instead to stay and eat with her father, so Bob
bought BarBQ’s enough for just two and left to meet
McAndrew at his office in Nanticoke. He arrived
there around 6:45 or 7:00 PM.
must have been more than a little surprised when Bob showed up
alone. This would call for a serious change in
the plot. He and Reid would now have to kill
just Bob and then figure out a new way to lure Mary to Pete
Wolfe’s house so she could join Bob in the dirt cellar. McAndrew
had no time to think of a new plan by the time
Reid arrived at his office. [Even AFTER
they had committed their foul deeds on Bob around 7:30 PM, he
still, by a little after midnight, wasn’t too clear on his
retelling of what HAD happened. (Bob testified that McAndrew had
said to Reid “Hello. How are you? I haven’t
seen you in a long time.”) In his initial
statement to the State Police from the Shickshinny barracks,
McAndrew’s account, this unknown fellow had told
him “Don’t say a word or I’ll blow your head off
!!” It’s a lead pipe cinch that if Reid
ever DID make such an utterance, Bob didn’t hear him. Had
he overheard Reid say that, Bob certainly wouldn’t have then
agreed to go on to dinner with Reid in tow. Apparently,
the troopers didn’t think to ask McAndrew “And why would you
then agree to take two guys to dinner if one clearly had exhibited
animus toward the other?” On the other hand,
maybe the troopers had thought of that question but intentionally
didn’t ask it. They may have chosen to keep
it, as it were, under their Smokey the Bear hats for further
investigation into the identity of the “third man.”
Given the beating and shooting he had endured, Bob did not
happen to relate to the troopers in the ER three important facts.
One, McAndrew had actually introduced Reid to him at the
office using Reid’s REAL NAME . Second,
he forget to say that the “third man” was a pilot like he was.
Third, and perhaps most significantly in the minds of the
jurors later, Bob did NOT tell the troopers that McAndrew
had tried to run him down. At the initial
hospital interview the police, therefore, really had no suspicion
of McAndrew’s true involvement.]
three men proceeded to “dinner” in McAndrew’s year-old1965
Ford Thunderbird but took an alternate route that did not lead to
the Foothills Manor. Reid and Bob chatted about
planes during the ride. McAndrew suggested to
Bob that there was a house at Sylvan Lake he was thinking of
buying and he wanted Bob to see it. Arriving at
the house, all three exited McAndrew’s car and McAndrew entered
the home to turn on the lights. It was a most
fortuitous pitch-black night and Bob waited until the lights came
on to find his way up the steps. Reid remained
outside with the car. Following a tour of the
house, Bob exited and McAndrew remained behind to turn out the
lights. No sooner had the house lights gone out
than Reid set upon Bob, trying put HIS lights out, beating him
about the head and shoulders with the blackjack, all the while
crying out “You’ve been having an affair with my wife !!!”
[With the advantage of 40-year-old hindsight, such an
utterance by Reid may be seen as a bit of weakness on Reid’s
part. A professional hit man wouldn’t have
needed to psych himself up thusly. As he later
testified, his part was to just render Bob unconscious so that
McAndrew could then shoot him or run over him with the car.
Reid said that he was not able to actually kill someone but
could only “put them in a condition to die.” Further
evidence of Reid’s lack of fortitude to finish the job would
soon show up after he shot him once.]
their dismay, Bob did not succumb to repeated blackjack blows and
tussled with Reid, tearing off a piece of Reid’s plaid shirt in
the process. At this point, McAndrew reached
into the car and turned on the headlights. Seeing the gun in
Reid’s hand, Bob fled into the pitch-black night. [At
this point, readers, your author, being familiar with the scene of
the crime, is forced to re-create how the movements must have
played out. None of the WBR articles spell out
exactly who ran or drove where.] Bob ran
westward along Broadway Road, toward Ledge Hill. Reid
followed, intent he later said, on retrieving the piece of his
shirt from Bob’s grasp. Firing as he ran, he
only caught up with Bob after Bob, attempting to leave the roadway
and head for the woods, stumbled and fell into a roadside ditch.
[That would most likely have been on the north side of
Broadway Road, away from Sylvan Lake.] Reid
bent down and fired one shot from the .32. Reid
himself must have been out of his mind on adrenaline at that point
for he had only intended to whack Bob with the
blackjack—-shooting had been out of his job description.
Luckily Bob happened to roll to his left as the bullet
exited the handgun. The bullet struck him a
more-or-less glancing blow across his back. As
revealed in later testimony, he had been shot
“in the right side of the back of the chest. The
bullet had crossed the spinal column and lodged in the left side
under the skin.” It missed his spinal column
and, in not preceding through his body from back to chest, avoided
hitting any major organs.
shot Bob once, Reid bent down to fire again, this time aiming at
Bob’s head. At the last second, he realized
what he was doing and did not pull the trigger. [This
could be said to have been a moment of Divine intervention, akin
to the ray of light striking Saul Of Tarsus on the road to
Damascus. Saul was subsequently converted into
being the Apostle Paul.] Mary Rowan says it was
“the hand of the Lord” that saved Bob.
recovering his senses, Bob jumped out of the ditch and ran
eastward, back to the house, hoping to somehow find refuge there.
Reid, dumfounded that he had almost killed a man, did not
follow, remaining at the shooting site. McAndrew, meanwhile, had
heard the shot and had driven out of the driveway toward the
sound. Seeing Bob running headlong towards him
on the north side of Broadway Road, McAndrew veered the ’65
T-bird toward Bob. Bob jumped to his left but
the car still managed to clip his right hand. Bob
then took to the brushy woods behind the Wolfe residence and laid
down amongst the weeds. The conspirators
hadn’t foreseen the need to bring along a flashlight and their
search for Bob was fruitless. Fearing that
neighbors had heard the shot and would come to investigate, they
fled the scene. McAndrew reassured Reid “He’s done for.
I hit him with the car.”
would later tell the police that he had driven up and down
Broadway Road several times looking for either of the two guys but
couldn’t find them. [Remember that he was
still professing to not know Reid’s name.] He
said he had then given up and gone home to Bear Creek.
In reality, both he and Reid went back to McAndrew’s
office in Nanticoke on the off chance that Bob,
if he survived, had made his way back there to retrieve his car.
The car was still there, so maybe he’d gotten a ride back to his
home. At some point McAndrew must have taken Reid back to Ashley
but exactly when is not known. Mary Rowan
relates something that McAndrew did NOT tell the cops: that
he had also driven up and down past her and Bob’s house,
thinking he may have made it back there instead of going for his
car at McAndrew’s office. Had Bob somehow
made it home, McAndrew expected to see a lot of lights on inside
the home and maybe even police cars outside. Only
when he saw just one light did he, in reality, head to his own
home in Bear Creek.
Wolfe, Jr. testified that McAndrew called him between 9:00 and
9:30 PM and said that something had happened out in Sweet Valley.
He asked Pete to go out and have a look. Pete
started from his home in Kingston and made it as far as Shavertown
when he spotted McAndrew’s car in a gas station blinking its
lights at him. Pete pulled over into a shopping
center and met with McAndrew. The story was the
same as on the phone----something had happened and he wanted Pete
to check it out and to then meet him at Handley’s Diner on South
Main Street in Wilkes Barre. Whether or not
Pete actually made that trip or later met with McAndrew was not
cited in the WBR article. Even had he actually
gone, he would have had nothing to report.
back at the house, Bob had hidden himself in the woods
sufficiently and for a time long enough to avoid any further
searchers. After several hours, he decided it
was safe to move through the noisy late-November leaf fall and try
to find help. He avoided Broadway Road, for
that was where searchers would most likely expect to find him.
He found an old logging trail that led down the steep back
side of Ledge Hill and he stumbled down it in the dark. At roughly
12:30 on Saturday morning, November 26, he saw a light in the home
of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Gray on what is now Gray Road. He
made it to their porch and aroused them. Mrs.
Gray called Ross Township Chief of Police Mickey Niemchik.
Mickey picked up auxiliary officer Cletus “Junior”
Holcomb, Jr., and then went to the Gray home. Seeing
what bad condition Bob was in, Mickey called his wife on the
radio. He told her to phone the
Wyoming State Police barracks and tell them that he and Junior
were transporting Bob to Nanticoke State Hospital.
3, the hospital and the investigation:
was in such bad shape that Mary barely recognized him.
His head and face were swollen from the beating and he
didn’t seem to even know that he’d been shot. The
abrasion on his right hand was taken to be just a result of the
beating. He underwent surgery for removal of
the .32 caliber bullet. State police troopers
Nicholas Arch and Donald Tressler from the Shickshinny barracks
conducted an interview with Bob but he was able to tell them only
part of what had happened to him. He told them
of meeting the unknown “third man” at McAndrew ‘s office and
then going to the house near Sylvan Lake with them.
There the “third man” had assaulted him. At that point,
early Saturday morning, Bob didn’t know that McAndrew had stolen
his money. Had he known that, perhaps the
attempted run-down would have come to mind. In
his sorry condition, Bob didn’t think to tell the troopers that
McAndrew had tried to run him down and the defense attorneys tried
to use that omission against him at McAndrew’s trial.
Arch placed two calls to McAndrew’s home and was told, during
the second call, that McAndrew was already on his way to the
hospital, the one place he hadn’t checked. He
had obviously figured out that his worst fears had come true; Bob
was alive and was talking to the police. McAndrew described
the “third man” as being 6 feet, 190, ruddy complexion, and
wearing a plaid shirt. Considerably relieved,
he was free to go and he headed home. [It’s
not known at which point he began calling Reid to tell him of this
unexpected development. He could have called
him on Saturday, at which time Reid likely would still have been
at a relative’s house in Ashley or he may have waited until Reid
got back to Cleveland. We may safely bet that
there were a lot more than just one call made over the following
and Arch investigated for two days. They
visited the crime scene and collected evidence but were unable to
ID the “third man.”
instigation then was transferred to the Wyoming barracks of the
State Police. The barracks commander, Major
McGroarty, was a friend of Bob Rowan’s, as they were both
pilots. Hearing of the incident, he visited Bob
during his one-week hospitalization. The
name “McAndrew” was known to the Wyoming barracks troopers,
for they had previously investigated him for an arson charge they
ultimately were unable to prove. It didn’t
take much for them to deduce “Hmmm—this guy who probably
burned his house down for insurance was present at a beating and
shooting? I’ll BET he was somehow
put a tail on McAndrew and followed him to the Host Motel in East
End, Wilkes Barre, where they observed him making calls from a pay
phone. They obtained phone company records and
found that he had been calling Walter Reid.
that discovery, things started moving along fast and the case was
solved rather quickly. Bob had only spent about
a week in the hospital and the police must have interviewed him at
least once more after he was discharged. During
one of the interviews Bob, probably knowing by then that McAndrew
had stolen his money, remembered to tell them how McAndrew had
tried to run him down. On Tuesday, December 6,
1966, just 11 days after the assault, a warrant was issued for
McAndrew on a charge of assault with the intent to kill (see top
of this page.)
two days, later, on Thursday, December 8, 1966, Reid was arrested
in Cleveland. He obviously “rolled over” on
McAndrew and told of what they had been up to. On the very next
day after the arrest, December 9, a charge of conspiracy was
leveled against both plotters.
“Criminal complaint against both Walter Reid and Thomas V.
a charge of conspiracy. From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts
preliminary hearing was held for Reid on both the conspiracy and
assault charges on December 10 in front of Justice Of the Peace
Stephen R. Stefanides in Swoyersville. He pled
not guilty to both charges and was released under a total of
$5,500 bail ($5,000 on assault and $500 on conspiracy.)
Reid was represented by Atty. John Boyle but it isn’t
known if Boyle was retained by Reid or appointed as a Public
would prove to be an omen of things to come, McAndrew’s case
took a little longer. In this instance it was
only a week. On Friday, December 16, 1966,
McAndrew’s preliminary hearing was held in front of Stefanides
on all three counts. He was represented by
Atty. Ciotola, a junior associate from the office of Louis
G. Feldman in Hazleton. [Feldman had been a
Luzerne County District Attorney and when it came to the “heavy
lifting” of an actual trial, he showed up in court in person.]
McAndrew plead not guilty to all three charges and bail was
continued but increased. Previously, on just
the assault charge, his bail had been only $10,000, secured by a
lien on his house in Bear Creek. Now, with
three charges looming, it was more than doubled to $20,500
($10,000 for assault, the same for fraudulent conversion of the
check, and $500 on conspiracy.) This time his
in-laws, Thomas S. and Lillian M. Flannery of 357 McLean Street,
Wilkes Barre provided the collateral.
4, our system of jurisprudence:
wheel of justice grind slowly but they grind exceedingly
took TWO YEARS (November, 1966 until
October, 1968) after the crime until the first trial was held.
Admittedly, I did not order every single document
applicable to each defendant from the Luzerne County Clerk Of
Courts office. The cost (at $1.50 per page printed from microfilm)
would have been prohibitive. Still, by judging
what did happen at the trials, it is fairly easy to deduce what
must have happened in the interim. Given that
Reid, when he actually got to trial, was represented by Public
Defenders, we may safely assume that he was also so-represented in
the interim. Public Defenders would not have had the wherewithal
to continue filing delaying motions. McAndrew, on the other hand,
was represented by the top-flight law firm of a former DA from his
preliminary hearing onward through his trial. They,
in fact, did, file such motions and appeals AFTER his guilty
must admit to being a justice junkie. I watched
ALL of OJ’s 9-month trial except for some of the dry DNA
testimony. Beyond that, I have been a fan of
“Law And Order” and Court TV for years. Therefore,
dear readers, please accept my humble analysis of the strategy
that the prosecution must have employed. It
must have been obvious to them that Reid was the weakest link.
He had quickly ID’ed McAndrew as the one who initiated
the plot . He, undoubtedly, made self-incriminating statements as
well. I would think that the prosecutors COULD
have brought Reid to trial much sooner than they ultimately did.
It’s obvious to me that they delayed until McAndrew’s
team finally ran out of delaying tactics. It is
entirely likely that they worked out a deal with Reid for a
lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony against McAndrew.
Holding Reid’s trial immediately before McAndrew’s
would give Reid very little time to change his mind.]
it turned out, Reid did have second thoughts, at least initially,
when it came to his trial date. As he later
testified, McAndrew had threatened quite early on in the planning
stage, even before the crimes were committed, to wipe out Reid’s
entire family if he squealed. While I have seen
absolutely NO EVIDENCE to prove that McAndrew continued
that threat up during the two-year interim until Reid’s trial, I
do have my suspicions.
went through the motions of at least starting a trial.
On Thursday and Friday, October 10-11, 1968, a jury of
eight men and 4 women with 2 women alternates was sworn.
jury. From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
was represented by Assistant Public Defenders Carmen Maffei and
William R. Keller. Representing the
Commonwealth were District Attorney Blythe H. Evans, Jr. and
Assistant DA Joseph J, Gale, Jr. I have little
doubt that, over the intervening weekend, the prosecutors had
taken great pains to remind Reid of the deal they has worked
out—testify against McAndrew and get a lighter sentence.
On Monday morning, October 15, 1968, the court session
began with a two-hour in-chamber discussion between the parties
and Judge Richard L. Bigelow. Upon emerging,
before opening statements or any testimony had been given, the
judge dismissed the jurors. Reid had changed
his plea to guilty.
Bigelow questioned Reid about his plea. “Is it your free and
voluntary desire to enter a plea of guilty to these charges?”
Reid responded “Yes, sir.” Questioned
further as to why he was pleading guilty, he answered “Because I
am guilty.” Bigelow further advised Reid that
the possible sentences could be $3,000 or 7 years or both of those
on the assault with the intent to kill charge plus another $500 or
1 year or both on the conspiracy charge. Reid
acknowledged those. He was also advised of his
right to appeal, within 45 days of their imposition, the sentences
actually handed down. His bail was
doubled from $5,500 to $11,000.
my knowledge of our judicial system, that SHOULD have been the end
of that day’s proceedings but it wasn’t. I can see where Reid
himself may have had to explain the conspiracy and all that led to
his present predicament, but, unless the WBR omitted this detail,
Reid didn’t testify. Assistant DA Dale then called Bob Rowan to
the stand. Given that Reid’s case was
essentially over for that day, I fail to see the point of calling
Bob, but that’s what Dale did. The only possible reason for
calling Bob is strictly a guess on my part. Perhaps
it would serve as a “dress rehearsal” for the testimony he was
going to offer against McAndrew just two days from then. McAndrew
‘s trial had been set for Wednesday, October 16. That
close a scheduling lends support to the idea that the prosecutors
had worked a plea deal with Reid; they obviously didn’t expect
Reid’s trial to last very long at all. Obviously
not subject to any cross-examination, Bob recounted all that had
happened to him on Friday, November 25, 1966.
trial, after nearly 2 years of continuances and postponements
finally did begin as scheduled. He was tried on
three counts. One was the assault with intent
assault charge, case # 65-B of 1967.
From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
was also tried on a charge of having forged the check.
forgery charge, case # 1912 of 1968.
From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
was the charge that he conspired with Reid to kill Rowan.
conspiracy charge, case # 65 of 1967, as shown before the
defendants’ trials were severed. From the Luzerne County Clerk
Of Courts Office.”
Wednesday, Wednesday, October 16, 1968 a jury of 10 women and 2
men with 2 female alternates was sworn in at 5:25 PM. The
jurors were: Francis Phillips, Nanticoke; Edith Baker, Wilkes
Barre; Walter Scott, Wilkes Barre; Mrs. Steven Volpetti, Pittston;
Mary Claire Blackman, Wilkes Barre; Mrs. Theresa Hooper, West
Wyoming; Mildred Mayewski, Nanticoke; Jeanette McGovern, Wilkes
Barre; Caroline Martin, Miner’s Mills; Rose Williams, Wilkes
Barre; Mrs. Pauline Ruddy, Wilkes Barre; and Mrs. Gwen Corbett,
Wilkes Barre. Alternates were Madge Edwards,
Wilkes Barre, and Sophie Ramutkowski of Swoyersville.
McAndrew’s jury. List from the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts
and their hometowns from the WBR.”
defense team was now led by former Luzerne County DA Louis G.
Feldman who had, undoubtedly, been responsible for the 2-year
delay in the proceedings. Even before the jury
was selected he had once again been up to his usual tactics.
He sought 22 preemptory challenges but was given only 8.
Now that the jury had been seated, even before opening
statements on Thursday, Oct. 17, he was at it again. He
sought to have a separate trial for McAndrew on each of the three
charges he faced. Bigelow turned him down and
the trial finally got underway.
Thursday, the jurors heard the prosecution’s opening statement
given by Assistant DA Dale. [Feldman deferred
his opening statement until the beginning of the defense’s case
in chief.] Dale related the entire story of how
things occurred and I won’t bore you by telling you once again.
By now you probably know the details by heart. The
first witness was Robert Gray, who told of how Bob had shown up at
his home and how Mrs. Gray had called the Ross Township police.
after noon, the jurors were dismissed. Following
his well-established precedent, Feldman raised a legal point that
required an in-chambers conference. This was
certainly not the last such move he would make. This
time, he sought to be given all the notes taken by State Troopers
during their investigation so as to be prepared to cross-examine
any who might testify.
Friday morning Bigelow overruled the defense request for police
notes and troopers Nicholas and Arch Donald Tressler of the
Shickshinny barracks testified of the events on the night of
November 25, 1966. Arch said that, at no time
during the initial interview in the ER of Nanticoke State Hospital
did Bob Rowan say anything about McAndrew having tried to run him
down. Bob had told only of McAndrew being
present. On re-direct by Assistant
DA Dale, Arch said that he had limited his initial interview
because Bob had been bleeding, cold, and under treatment at the
time. It’s not sure which trooper told of
having reviewed the investigation report to refresh his memory
just days before the trial. This statement set
off Feldman again. He renewed his motion to see
all of the police notes. For the second
consecutive day, the jurors were sent home in the afternoon while
the attorneys argued.
prosecution’s star witness, Walt Reid, took the stand on Monday
morning, October 21. He began by describing how
the plot evolved. He had come home to Ashley
from Cleveland at various times to discuss the plan with McAndrew.
They had talked of different methods of killing Bob like
staging a car “accident”; sabotaging Bob’s plane; or gaining
entry to Bob’s home, knocking him and Mary out and then burning
the house down. At a “greasy spoon”
across from the Comerford drive-in theater in Avoca they made
their ultimate decision. After luring them to a
country setting on a pretext of going to dinner in Shickshinny,
Reid would knock them out. McAndrew would then
either shoot them or run over them with his car. The
bodies would be buried in a dirt cellar. For
his part, Reid would receive $30,000 but, if he squealed, McAndrew
would wipe out the entire Reid family. Mary, it
seemed, wouldn’t be that much of a problem but he wanted to
scope out Bob to see what he would be up against. Reid
told of he and McAndrew visiting several restaurants around
Wyoming Valley looking for Bob so that he could get a look at him.
He also described how McAndrew had forged the Rowan’s
signatures on the stock redemption form. McAndrew
had gone to a Nanticoke drug store with a paper containing their
valid signatures he had as their financial advisor. He
photocopied the signatures and then returned to his office.
Reid had watched as McAndrew wrapped the
photocopy around a light source and traced the signatures onto the
stock redemption form. “He put the form into
an envelope, stamped it, and we drove to Wilkes Barre.
We pulled up alongside the post office and I mailed the
form. McAndrew then told me that once this goes
out, we are committed. There is no way to back
out. “ That testimony took up the morning hours of the Monday
the stand after lunch, the prosecution led Reid into some
testimony that I find somewhat baffling. The
only explanation I can come up with is that they intended to
lessen the effect of the horde of character witnesses they
expected McAndrew to present during his defense. Reid
told of how McAndrew had a “girlfriend waitress” in
Shickshinny. That, I presume, would have been
at the Foothills Manor where they were supposedly taking Bob and
Mary. At the point where Reid described
McAndrew’s relationship with the waitress as sexual, Feldman
raised a strong objection. Ok, readers, I’ll
give you three guesses as to what happened next and the first two
don’t count. The jurors were dismissed for a
THIRD consecutive day and sent home while the attorneys met with
Judge Bigelow in chambers.
story as carried WBR edition of Wednesday, October 23, 1968 is the
biggest tangled mess I’ve had to figure out in quite a while.
The paper was obviously published as a morning paper. The
reporter starts off by citing what happened at the END of
Tuesday’s session. Only by following his entire account does one
find out what happened all day Tuesday BEFORE the end of the court
day. I will try to put events in chronological
order. The first thing that happened when court opened was Judge
Bigelow instructed the jurors to disregard Reid’s testimony
about McAndrew’s girlfriend. It was
disregarded on the basis that it had been irrelevant and
non-responsive, and had been, in fact, volunteered by Reid.
Bigelow then admonished Reid to confine his responses to
answering only specific questions that had been asked of him.
then testified that he and McAndrew had gone to cash the check on
Wednesday, Nov. 23, 1966, two days before the attack on Bob Rowan.
He also said that when he was introduced to Bob, McAndrew
had cited Reid’s correct name and had mentioned that Reid, like
Bob, was a pilot. [Remember, readers, that,
despite looking all over the valley for Bob so Reid could get a
look at him, they hadn’t found him. Thus, the meeting in
McAndrew’s office was the first time he saw Bob. McAndrew, by
using Reid’s real name and citing his piloting hobby, was
nailing down for Reid that this was the man they were to kill.
Reid later told McAndrew that giving Bob his true name had been a
mistake. It turned out to have been a mistake
from which Reid escaped temporarily, for Bob, when interviewed at
the hospital didn’t recall what he had been told. It
was only by tracking McAndrew’s calls later that Reid’s ID was
then went on to describe how he had beaten Bob with the blackjack.
He said that his conscience wouldn’t allow him to kill
Bob but that it would allow him to put Bob into a position where
he could be killed. He identified a photo taken
by police at the Wolfe house as being where McAndrew had
parked the car. He told that, as he was
attacked, Bob ran toward the front of the car, beseeching McAndrew
to help him. McAndrew, of course, did not help. During
the struggle Bob ripped off a part of Reid’s sleeve and ran away
faster than Reid could run. Seeking to retrieve
the shirt part, Reid chased him while firing the .32 caliber
handgun but the shots missed Bob. Bob fell into
the ditch and only then was he shot, in the back. Reid
bent over to shoot Bob again but found he couldn’t pull the
trigger again while aiming at Bob’s head. That
was apparently the end of Reid’s testimony.
Wolfe then testified how McAndrew had called him, told him
something had happened, and asked Pete to go have a look.
On the way to Sylvan Lake, he’d met McAndrew in
Shavertown and McAndrew repeated that request. The
WBR article does not say whether Pete actually went there. Wolfe
admitted that he had originally refused to talk to investigator
Charles Hartman because he didn’t want to become involved.
Wednesday, October 23, 1988, Bob took the stand. He told of
McAndrew having shown him the check for $132,175.35. McAndrew
had said that he’d sold Bob’s shares for him because President
Johnson’s illness was affecting the market and that, for every
$1 drop in the stock’s price, Bob would lose $17,000. Bob had refused the check and told McAndrew to send it
back. He identified the wounds he had received
during the attack. Despite Feldman’s dogged
cross examination, he would not budge from his story that it
happened on a dark night and that McAndrew’s had been the only
car in the area at the time. He described the
ditch into which he had fallen and how a bullet had entered his
back. [I believe the reporter must have
incorrectly cited part of Bob’s testimony in saying that Bob
admitted that he had “NEVER (caps added for emphasis) told
anyone that McAndrew and Reid tried to kill him.” It’s a given
that Bob had told the police at SOME point for, after all,
McAndrew WAS being tried on a count of assault with intent to kill
and Reid had already pled guilty to that same charge. I
believe a transcript would show that Bob truly admitted to not
having told the police during the hospital interview about
McAndrew’s attempt to run him down.]
then asked if anyone from Investors Diversified was present in the
courtroom. They spoke up, and upon their
presentation of a cancelled stock certificate for 17,000 shares,
it was admitted into evidence. Bob
testified that he had surrendered said certificate to McAndrew
sometime between May and September of 1966. He
had asked that McAndrew have those shares re-issued in smaller
denominations that he could use as collateral for loans but those
smaller certificates had never been given to him. McAndrew, Bob
said, had told him that “these things take time.” The
17,000-share certificate had not been received at the company
until November 14, 1966, just before the crimes took place.
session, for as long as it lasted, pretty much involved just the
testimony of Mary Rowan. She told of
their having been invited to dinner by McAndrew and how just her
husband had gone, leaving home around 6:40 PM. She
next saw him in the emergency room of Nanticoke State Hospital, in
a condition so bad that she barely recognized him. She
denied having signed either the stock redemption form or the
resultant check. In fact, she had never even
seen the check until the police asked her to identify it in
was once again cut short, adjourning at 1:30 PM. No
official reason was given for the adjournment but the courthouse
was rife with a good, juicy rumor. Both Judge
Bigelow and defense counsel Feldman were Republicans from
Hazleton. Feldman, in fact, was the chairman of
a veterans’ group for presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon
and Nixon was to speak in Hazleton that afternoon. [Note
that Thursday, October 24, 1968 was just 12 days before the
general election on November 5. Despite that
last-minute visit, Nixon failed to carry either Luzerne or
neighboring Lackawanna County.]
turned out to be nearly useless. Overnight on Thursday, six of the
un-sequestered jurors had received harassing phone calls.
Judge Bigelow interviewed each juror individually and
determined that none had actually been threatened. The
calls were more of just a harassing nature. No
testimony whatsoever was given and court adjourned until 10 AM on
on Monday didn’t get underway until 11:42 after yet another
in-chambers discussion. An account supervisor
from Investors Diversified Services identified the stock
certificate, the redemption request form, and the check for
$132,175.35. Two bank employees testified about
McAndrew converting the check by depositing it in an account
bearing his name. With that testimony, the
prosecution rested. They had presented 19
witnesses and 31 pieces of evidence had been entered into the
opening statement for the defense said that; character witnesses
would testify as to McAndrew’s reputation; other witnesses would
show that THE MONEY DID NOT BELONG TO ROWAN (caps added for
emphasis) [More on this point below]; and other testimony would be
given to prove that McAndrew did not commit the crimes.
Feldman’s opening statement there was another delay as Judge
Bigelow heard three more defense motions in chambers. He
denied all three.
defense case began, as promised, with character witnesses.
Appearing on McAndrew’s behalf were: Paul C. Mailloux,
Bear Creek; Paul V. Luty, Wapping CT; Joseph Grosskettler, West
Hazleton; James F. McCabe, Shavertown; Stephen Balut, Bear Creek;
Edwin H. Dorrand, Wilkes Barre; Ann M. Colleran, Scranton;
Dennis Dowling, Bear Creek; William Boesche, Bear Creek; Ernest G.
Rosencrance, Bear Creek; Mrs. Ann Lewis Hutter, Bear Creek
Village; Mrs. Betty Boesche, Bear Creek; Frank Rowe, Wilkes Barre;
Thomas Murphy, Bear Creek; Thomas McLarney, Nanticoke; Mrs. Mary
Ellen Woods, Wilkes Barre; Edward Burke, Wilkes Barre; Francis
Busick, Wilkes Barre; and Catherine Manganello, Wilkes Barre.
the final character witness had stepped down, Feldman recalled
John C. Dema, account supervisor of Investors Diversified
Services, who had previously appeared as a prosecution witness.
The point of recalling Dema has been totally lost on this
researcher. One would surmise that Feldman
intended to somehow elicit testimony to prove the assertion he’d
made in his opening argument, that the money did not belong to
Rowan. Had he actually obtained any such
testimony, it seems certain that the WBR would have mentioned it,
for it would have been essential to the defense case. Their
article makes no mention whatsoever of any questions that were
asked. My take on the assertion being included in Feldman’s
opening statement is that, like many defense attorneys before and
after him, he over-promised more than he could deliver.
Many wily defense attorneys will attempt to sway the jury
into thinking that what THEY says constitutes evidence. Judges,
even without prodding by the prosecution, will often instruct the
jurors “only testimony given by witnesses is to be considered as
evidence.” Absent a transcript I have no way
of knowing if that took place here or if the prosecution, in its
closing statement, pointed out Feldman’s over-promising.]
The Tuesday, October 29 session finally wrapped up at 6 PM.
Wednesday, October 30, 1968, court began with yet another
in-chambers conference. Emerging from the
conference, Judge Bigelow advised jurors that the defendant had a
constitutional right to NOT testify. [The
conference and the resultant judicial advice seems to me a move by
the defense to show what a good guy McAndrew was for, at 11:55 AM,
Thomas V. McAndrew took the stand to defend himself anyway.]
the course of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, McAndrew’s
defense consisted chiefly of more of what I will call “window
dressing.” On direct exam by Feldman, he
recited his biography, which included his service in World War 2,
his business career and memberships in community organizations,
his marriage to Jean Flannery, and their five children (ages 11 to
20), all of whom were in court. [Mary Rowan
points out that at least one of the children wore a cervical
collar and walked with crutches. How very handy
to elicit sympathy from the jurors !]
substantive matters, McAndrew simply denied everything.
Yes, he knew Walter Reid for approximately 20 years.
Over that span he had loaned Reid money and even a car on
various occasions. In response to cross exam,
he admitted he did own a blackjack that was kept in the
Corvair’s glove box for his daughter’s protection.
Reid would have known it was kept there because McAndrew
had loaned him the Corvair and Reid also knew where the Corvair
was often parked. He had never noticed that the blackjack was
missing until he saw it introduced as evidence. However,
he had never discussed killing Bob Rowan with Reid or anyone else.
Further, he was not with Reid on the day the crimes were
committed, as he had spent the morning at the Kingston-Coughlin
football game and then the rest of the day at his in-laws’ home.
He had invited the Rowans to dinner but only Bob had come,
as Mary had other plans. [My mind simply cries
out here for a complete transcript of the trial. I am left with
some unanswered questions that may well have been asked and
answered yet not reported by the WBR. Chief
among these would take into account that, apparently, McAndrew
said he took Bob to dinner and then back to his office.
He simply HAD to have been asked on cross by the
prosecutors “If you were NOT with Reid and Bob on that dark
night, how was it that you were already on your way to the
hospital when Trooper Arch called your home a second time?
What made you think you were needed there?” and “Did
Pete Wolfe lie in saying that you had asked him to go to Sweet
Valley to see what had happened?”]
also brought up one point that, to me, seems to have been totally
counter-productive to the defense case. He had
McAndrew deny that he had ever had any illicit affairs.
Remember, dear readers, that Reid had spontaneously
offered, during the prosecution case, that Reid had been carrying
on with a waitress. Judge Bigelow had
subsequently instructed the jurors to disregard that yet here was
Feldman bringing the subject up again. [Trés stupid !!]
as a whole, the entire defense case, in my humble opinion,
provided not one shred of actual “evidence” to, as Feldman had
promised in his opening statement, “prove that McAndrew
did not commit the crimes.” Mere denial,
denial, denial does NOT, in my book, constitute factual evidence.
The jurors should well have expected such from McAndrew
since the very fact that a trial WAS being held implied that he
was denying the charges. Had he admitted them,
the jurors would have stayed home and gone about their lives.
WBR did not report how long the jury was out but, at 8:50 PM on a
Friday night, November 1, 1968, they issued their verdict.
Typical of what I have seen, a late-night Friday verdict
essentially says “We’re tired after all the delays that have
disrupted our lives for 16 days. It’s the
weekend and let’s get on with our lives. Although
we can’t reach total agreement on all 3 counts, let’s
compromise.” They found McAndrew guilty on the
conspiracy and forgery charges but NOT GUILTY on the assault with
the intent to kill.
form on the assault charge. From the Luzerne County Clerk Of
Bigelow did not sentence McAndrew immediately. The
prosecution, needless to say, was quite displeased with the not
guilty verdict on what they likely took to be the most serious
charge. Within just a little over three weeks
from that happening, they leveled another charge against him, that
he had forged the Request For Redemption form. I
have no knowledge of why Feldman delayed filing an appeal until
THIRTEEN MONTHS later, on January 7, 1970. I
don’t have the documents showing the basis of the appeal, but
it’s fair to guess that it would have claimed that such a charge
amounted to double jeopardy. On June 10, 1970, the appeal was
quashed by the Superior Court in Philadelphia.
of the Superior Court on McAndrew’s appeal.
From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
higher court obviously sided with what the prosecution must have
been claiming, i.e., that forging a check is one thing and forging
the form that caused the check to be issued is a second,
this point, McAndrew finally gave up but, even so, HE NEVER SPENT
A DAY IN JAIL !!!! I don’t know why, but it
took two separate sentencings, on July 23, 1970 and again on
February 3, 1971, to lay down his penalties.
sentences. From the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts Office.”
told, he ended up with only 6 years of special probation and
paying $7,500 in court costs. [Special
probation, as I have researched, meant that he reported to a
Pennsylvania state probation officer as opposed to a Luzerne
County probation officer as he would have had his sentence been
less than two years.]
the time McAndrew was ever finally sentenced, Walter Reid had
already long paid his debt to society. He was
quite fortunate in that Bob Rowan was a very religious man.
Beyond that, Bob probably fully realized that Reid could
have shot him once more, probably fatally, as he leaned down on
that dark night so long ago. Bob kept in
contact with Reid and eventually, as Mary Rowan tells it, “led
him to the Lord.” Bob intervened with
the court on Reid’s behalf, citing his new-found religion, and
Reid served just one year of the one-to-two-year sentence.
I don’t know what became of Reid for the rest of his life
but Pete Wolfe, who has followed this case, says (in 2005) that
Reid has died. I did not attempt to interview
any Reid family members.
lived to be 78, dying on June 28, 2001. His
obituary, written by his survivors, did not, of course, make any
mention of his criminal past. His employment
history was cited as having been “a self-employed
broker-investor, a supervisor for Owens Illinois, a security
investigator for Giant Markets, and a supervisor for Fairlawn
Apartments.” Mrs. Rowan knows that he
lost the Owens Illinois job once they learned of his past. I would
imagine he didn’t stay long at the other jobs either, for that
same reason. The rest of the obit was the
standard stuff: a WW2 vet, loving husband,
father, and grandfather who loved trips to Atlantic City (here
comes that gambling reference again—I think Mrs. Rowan was right
and Mary Rowan suffered no financial loss from the
co-conspirators’ theft. They were reimbursed
by a bonding company. It then became
McAndrew’s obligation to repay the bonding company. Mary,
now in her 80’s, is still irate at the fact that McAndrew got
off so lightly and never once expressed any repentance.
She holds that “the judge and the attorneys were mostly
concerned that he repay the company, something he couldn’t do
from behind bars.” Given his likely quite spotty post-conviction
work history, it’s doubtful he ever made much headway toward
repayment. Like McAndrew and Reid, Bob Rowan
has now passed on.
the course of researching this story, I spoke to many Sweet Valley
residents. Only Bob Gray, Jr., at whose
parents’ home Bob showed up on November 25, 1966, has any
recollection of the crime. I find this most
easily explained by the fact that no local person was involved.
Had a Hontz shot a Long, it would have reverberated for a
hundred years. As it was, with a victim from
Wilkes Barre, bad guys from Bear Creek and Cleveland, and a
lengthy judicial process, it has easily slipped from the
collective conscience of the community. Hopefully,
my recounting will engrave it for as long as there is an internet.