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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
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George Shaw Sentenced to Maximum Penalty for 1984 Murder of Girl, 14

October 2, 2017

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

George Shaw Barbara Rowan edited
      George Shaw                    Barbara Rowan

George Franz Shaw, who sexually assaulted and murdered a 14-year-old Bensalem girl in 1984, then evaded prosecution for more than 30 years, was sentenced this morning to serve 13 ½ to 27 years in state prison.

Shaw, 57, of Geneva, Florida, was convicted July 31 of third-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime and attempted indecent assault in the Aug. 3, 1984, slaying of Barbara Rowan.

Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr., who found Shaw guilty after a non-jury trial, gave him consecutive sentences of 10 to 20 years for the murder, two and one-half to five years for possessing an instrument of crime, and one to two years for attempted indecent assault.

In sentencing Shaw, Bateman was bound by laws that existed in 1984, when the crime occurred. Under today’s statutes, third-degree murder would be punishable by up to 20 to 40 years in prison. Bateman’s sentence was the maximum possible under the laws at that time.

“You have truly been a beneficiary of the delay in bringing you to justice,” Bateman told Shaw, who continues to deny his guilt and declined to make a statement at his sentencing.

“You are a murderer,” the judge continued. “You have lived 30 years without paying your debt to society [while] the Rowan family has been given a life sentence by your hand … The bottom line is, you took the life of such a young girl, and then you got to live your life.”

Shaw killed the teen, who lived near him, inside his apartment on Old Lincoln Highway in the Trevose section of Bensalem. He then enlisted a fellow methamphetamine abuser to help him load Barbara’s body into the trunk of Shaw’s car and dump it in an overgrown area not far away.

The girl’s badly decomposed remains were found 13 days after her murder in an overgrown area between U.S. 1 and North River Drive, less than a mile from her home. Her body was unclothed from the waist down. Her arms were restrained behind her back, wrapped at the wrists with industrial-strength tape, as were her ankles, nose and mouth – evidence of asphyxiation and sexual assault, prosecutors said.

The murder went unsolved until 2015, when Shaw’s accomplice told authorities that he was present when the girl was killed and that he had helped Shaw move the body.

In the interim, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer M. Schorn, witnesses died, evidence degraded and memories faded.

“It was very challenging, but we’re pleased that George Shaw is now convicted as a murderer, and as a sex offender, two things we knew to be the case,” Schorn said. She said she also was pleased that Bateman “imposed the statutory maximum sentence allowed by law, based on what the law was in 1984.”

Unchanged by time was the pain felt by the victim’s family, several loved ones told Bateman in court.

“The only thing I had was being a mother to my beloved daughter,” Patricia Rowan said of her only child. “George Shaw has ripped my life away from me, and left me with emptiness.”

Patricia Rowan said her daughter’s murder so haunted her that watching her nieces – who were close to Barbara’s age – earn their diplomas, marry and have children inflicted such emotional distress that she began avoiding family gatherings.

“While I love my family, it’s not the same as watching my daughter meet her milestones,” she said. “I will never have grandchildren, and my family has stopped. We will never know what Barbara would have grown up to be.”

The slender, red-haired girl, described by relatives and acquaintances as friendly, innocent and trusting, sometimes visited Shaw’s apartment to play with his toddler daughter.

Ruth Zielinski, Barbara’s aunt, wondered aloud how Shaw, who has daughters of his own, “could take the life of an innocent little girl? How could you look into their eyes all these years, knowing you assaulted and murdered a precious little girl?”

“I hope the guilt eats at you for the rest of your life,” Zielinski told Shaw. “May you suffer the same scene over and over in all your thoughts and nightmares.”

Shaw’s sexual assaults were not limited to children, Schorn told Bateman.

Two months to the day after Barbara Rowan’s remains were found on Aug. 16, 1984, Shaw broke into the home of an elderly Montgomery County woman and sexually attacked her, Schorn said. He later pleaded guilty to burglary and indecent assault.

Two months after that, Schorn said, Shaw was caught peering through the window of a teenage Montgomery County girl who lived on the same block as the elderly victim.

The girl’s father and brother wrestled Shaw to the ground, Schorn said, but declined to press charges. However, fingerprints taken from Shaw after that incident helped lead to his arrest in the sexual assault case, she said.

While those events were too prejudicial to be introduced at Shaw’s trial, Schorn said, she urged Bateman to consider them at sentencing, given Shaw’s ongoing profession of innocence.

“He is a sexual predator,” Schorn argued. “He’s an individual who will take what he can from the most vulnerable members of society. And one cannot imagine a more vulnerable victim than 14-year-old Barbara Rowan.”

Although Shaw was questioned repeatedly by police after the murder, he denied seeing the girl at any time close to the time she disappeared, let alone having allowed her inside his apartment. He finally was arrested in October 2015, after a former Montgomery County resident told a Bucks County grand jury that he had been in Shaw’s apartment when Barbara was killed.

Robert Sanders, 53, testified that he had gone with Shaw to his apartment with the intent of injecting methamphetamine. Barbara, whom Shaw referred to as “the babysitter,” was in the apartment when they arrived, Sanders said.

Shaw led the girl into his bedroom and closed the door, Sanders testified, after which he said he could hear noises coming from the room. When Shaw emerged from the bedroom, Sanders testified, he was sweating and agitated, and kept saying “I f—ed up.”

Sanders testified that when he went into the bedroom, he saw the girl’s body lying face-down on the bed, wrapped in black plastic bags. He testified that he helped Shaw dispose of the body and never told police because he feared Shaw.

Sanders was sentenced last month to three to six years in prison for his role in hindering the investigation.

Bateman paid tribute to the work of Bensalem Police Detective Christopher McMullin and Bucks County Deputy Chief of Detectives Michael Mosiniak, who reactivated the investigation more than a decade ago and ultimately solved the case.

“If not for the efforts of Detective McMullin and Detective Mosiniak, there might never have been justice in this case,” the judge said.

McMullin and Mosiniak were assisted by additional members of the Bensalem Township Police Department and the Bucks County Detectives, and the case was prosecuted by Schorn and Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bryant.

Approved for release by Gregg D. Shore, First Assistant 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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