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Trial to Begin in 1984 Cold-Case Slaying of Bensalem Girl, 14

July 17, 2017

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

George Shaw Barbara Rowan edited
         George Shaw                  Barbara Rowan

The 1984 slaying of a 14-year-old Bensalem girl, which went unsolved for 31 years, is headed for trial Tuesday morning in Bucks County Common Pleas Court.

George Franz Shaw, 56, of Geneva, Fla., is charged with raping and murdering Barbara Rowan in his apartment on Old Lincoln Highway on Aug. 3, 1984.

The badly decomposed body of the girl, who lived near Shaw, was found 13 days later in a wooded area between U.S. Route 1 and North River Drive in Bensalem. An autopsy determined that Barbara had died of asphyxiation.

No arrests were made until October 2015, when Bensalem police and Bucks County detectives charged Shaw and a second defendant, Robert Sanders of Willow Grove.

Sanders, 53, pleaded guilty on Feb. 7 to two felony counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution. He admitted giving false and misleading information that had impeded investigators, and helping Shaw dispose of the victim's body. Sanders is awaiting sentencing and is expected to testify at Shaw's trial. 

Not long before the arrests, Sanders had acknowledged to investigators that he was in Shaw's apartment at the time 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 eventually was found, Sanders said.

Prosecutors have alleged that Shaw and Sanders were methamphetamine and cocaine addicts who had gone to Shaw's apartment to shoot up drugs. Once there, Shaw allegedly told Sanders he had given his "babysitter" a date-rape drug to relax her.

Sanders told police that he saw a girl fitting Barbara's description walk into the bedroom with Shaw, who closed the door behind them. Shortly after, Sanders heard banging noises coming from the bedroom, prosecutors say.

The evening Barbara disappeared, her father came to the apartment door and asked loudly where his daughter was, prosecutors have said. When Sanders said he didn't know, the man became upset and threatened to call police, court documents state.

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

Sanders eventually confided to his brother and a friend about his role, prosecutors have said, but continued to lie to police until 2015. 

The non-jury trial is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Jennifer M. Schorn and Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bryant.

Shaw is represented by attorneys Louis Busico, Robert Mancini and Craig Penglase. The trial is expected to last at least one week.

Approved for release by Jennifer M. Schorn, Deputy District Attorney.

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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