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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Office of the Bucks County District Attorney

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Man Admits Impeding Investigation of 1984 Child Murder

February 7, 2017

Contact: Jennifer Schorn, 215.348.6337, jmschorn@buckscounty.org

A Montgomery County man today pleaded guilty to two felony counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution in the 1984 rape and slaying of 14-year-old Barbara Rowan in Bensalem.

Partly because of Robert Sanders’ deceptions, the killing went unsolved until October 2015, when authorities charged George Shaw, 56, of Geneva, Fla., with raping and suffocating the teen in his apartment on Old Lincoln Highway.

Sanders, 53, of Willow Grove, also was arrested – accused of providing false and misleading information to investigators, and of helping Shaw dispose of the victim’s body.

Barbara Rowan, who lived near Shaw in Bensalem, was reported missing by her father on the night of Aug. 3, 1984. Her decomposed body was found 13 days later in a wooded area along North River Drive. An autopsy determined that she died of asphyxiation.

Sanders admitted today that he was in Shaw’s apartment when Barbara was killed, and that he helped Shaw carry her body from the residence. The men placed the body in the trunk of Shaw’s car and transported it to the woods where it was found.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn, who is prosecuting the case, told Bucks County Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. that Shaw and Sanders were methamphetamine and cocaine addicts in the early 1980s who injected drugs together and sold them to support their habits.

On the night of the killing, Schorn said, Shaw had offered Sanders some methamphetamine to satisfy a debt. They drove from Hatboro to Shaw’s apartment to shoot up, and Shaw told Sanders that he had given his “babysitter” a date-rape drug to relax her.

Sanders recalled seeing a girl fitting Barbara’s description walk into the bedroom with Shaw, who closed the door behind him. Shortly after, Sanders heard banging noises coming from the room, Schorn said.

During the alleged assault, Barbara’s father came to the apartment door and asked loudly where his daughter was, Schorn said. When Sanders said he didn’t know, the man became upset and threatened to call police.

A few minutes after the father left, Schorn said, Shaw emerged from the bedroom, sweating profusely and saying, “I (messed) up.” Sanders looked into the bedroom and could see the girl still lying on the bed.

Shaw later placed the remains into a body bag, and asked Sanders to help him carry it to the car. They placed the bag in the trunk, drove to North River Drive, hopped a guard rail and pushed Barbara’s body into the woods, Schorn said.

Sanders later confided to his brother and a friend about his role, but continued to lie to police until 2015, Schorn said.

Bateman accepted the plea, and said Sanders would be scheduled for sentencing within 90 days.

Sanders is currently being held in the Monroe County Prison in lieu of $5 million bail, 10 percent cash. He is expected to testify at Shaw’s murder trial, scheduled to begin June 5.

Sanders’ defense attorney, Thomas Bowman, asked Bateman to reduce his client’s bail. He said that Sanders, in jail since his arrest, already has served more time than the standard-range sentence for his crimes.

Schorn objected, saying that Sanders’ history of alcoholism makes him a flight risk and a potential danger to himself.

Bateman postponed a decision on the bail motion until Sanders can undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation.

Approved for release by Thomas Gannon, Deputy District Attorney. 

Robert Sanders
Robert Sanders


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  19. 58 Micheal 31 May
    That was so cruel. How could he do that to a small girl and kill her? People like Sanders are a curse to this world and should be punished to death for such cruel crimes.cable providers They are not worth to live in this world. Never let him free from prison. 
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Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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