UPDATE: Shauna Howe jurors visit murder site

Howe jurors visit Coulter's Hole


Photo by Jerry Sowden - Participants in the Shauna Howe murder trial spent
much of Tuesday in the Coulter's Hole area in Rockland Township where
Shauna's body was found. A Pennsylavnia State Police officer carries
traffic cones away from the Coulter's Hole railroad bridge. The cones were
used to identify the exact location where the body was found.

One by one jurors leaned over the edge of a Rockland Township bridge to
stare at the spot where Shauna Howe's bruised and broken body was found 13
years ago.

The 10 women and eight men of the jury stood on the same overpass Tuesday
from which prosecutors say Shauna was thrown.

Taking turns, each juror gazed over the edge, looking 33 feet below into
the creek. A judge told them that the orange traffic cones they saw tied
end-to-end in the water marked where Shauna's body was found.

Prosecutors also say she died there.

There was also an orange tape measure resting on a pier that jutted out
from beneath the bridge. That marked the spot where fibers from Shauna's
shirt were found, the prosecution says.

The overpass where the jurors stood, surrounded by the mid-October chill,
is now part of a recreational bike path.

What was once a sparse, treacherous trestle is now covered with thick
wooden boards that create a sturdy bridge. Guardrails of chain-link fence
enclose the sides of the bridge.

Time has changed the area.

Thirteen years ago there was no sturdy bridge, no guardrails.

The bike path wasn't there either.

And Tuesday there was more water in the creek than the day Shauna's
lifeless body was found sprawled, face-up on a rock - Oct. 30, 1992.

The 11-year-old girl with blue eyes and sandy brown hair was grabbed off an
Oil City street corner as she walked home from a Halloween party on Oct.
27, 1992.

A leotard she wore that night was found two days later, on Oct. 29.

It wasn't until the next day that her body was discovered nearby.

In order to get a better look at the areas where searchers found Shauna's
body and the leotard she wore as part of a gymnast costume the night of she
was abducted, jurors traveled to the Coulter's Hole area Tuesday.

Judge Oliver J. Lobaugh accompanied each juror to the middle of the bridge,
pointing out where her body lay and where prosecutors say fibers from her
shirt were found on the pier.

The turquoise and black striped leotard was found about 300 yards from
where her body was discovered.

Jurors visited that area Tuesday, too.

The area and what happened there is crucial to the case.

When Shauna was tossed from the train trestle, she was still alive, an
expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Isadore Mihalakis, said Monday.

Not only was she alive, Mihalakis said, but she lay there bleeding, ribs
and wrist fractured, one of her ribs poking through her chest lining for
what could have been 30 minutes.

The defense disagrees.

Attorneys for brothers James and Timothy O'Brien, who are accused of
kidnapping, raping and murdering Shauna, say a third defendant in the case,
Eldred "Ted" Walker was the one who murdered Shauna.

Defense attorneys claimed Monday that Walker killed Shauna then discarded
the lifeless body in East Sandy Creek.

Walker's side of the story will be heard during the trial when he testifies
against the O'Briens.

The prosecution agrees Walker is not a likeable character, but adds he is
not the only one to blame for Shauna's death.

"You will not like Eldred "Ted" Walker," Veon told the jury during her
opening remarks Monday. "He is the person along with the O'Briens that
began the chain of events that led to Shauna's demise."

Walker, who pleaded guilty last month to kidnapping and third degree murder
in the case, could take the stand as early as today as a key witness for
the prosecution.

Most of second day of the trial was spent at the Coulter's Hole area. State
police roped off the area, prohibiting media and other spectators from
traveling close to the sites.

Initially, jurors were to take a bus tour of Oil City to view areas
mentioned in court. But plans changed Tuesday and the trip was limited to
the area near Coulter's Hole.

The group returned to the courtroom later that afternoon at about 3:30 p.m.
to hear testimony from three witnesses - a Girl Scout leader who was in
charge of Shauna's troop, the friend who walked with Shauna the night she
was abducted and the witness who says he saw a tall, scruffy smoker grab
Shauna from the street corner the night of Oct. 27, 1992.

The three witnesses traced Shauna's steps from the church to where she was
kidnapped at the corner of Reed and West First streets, just two blocks
from her home.

Shauna was part of Girl Scout Troop 307, a group of fourth-, fifth- and
sixth-grade girls who met once a week at the First Free Methodist Church on
Wilson Avenue, an assistant leader for the troop said.

Shauna and the other girls went to a nursing home that night to play bingo
and eat candy with the elderly residents there.

The costumed girls returned to the church and Shauna left on foot with
another girl, the troop leader said.

A childhood friend and fellow Girl Scout said she walked with Shauna for a
time being, but left Shauna at near the intersection of Central Avenue and
West First Street.

The next person who claimed to have seen her that night, Dan Paden, said he
saw Shauna walking as he trekked down West First Street.

He said he saw a tall, lanky man in an Army-style jacket. The man was
dragging on a cigarette, Paden said.

He heard a muffled scream, looked up and the girl and the man were gone.

He ran to the corner, he said, but by the time he got there all he saw was
the backend of a boxy, rust-colored car as it pulled away.

He tried to find a place to call the police. After going to a few houses he
finally found a woman in a nearby home who agreed to call police, Paden

Paden said it was 2002 when Walker appeared on television that he
recognized him from the night of Shauna's abduction.

That's when Paden identified Walker as he tall, ball cap-wearing smoker he
saw the night Shauna was kidnapped.