02-03-2010, 10:25 PM #1Registered User
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PA - Patty Bartlett, 17, Middletown, 13 January 1975
35 years later, girl's murder unsolved
By: BEN FINLEY
Bucks County Courier Times
Pennsbury High School senior Patty Bartlett was stabbed to death outside the Oxford Valley Mall.
One theory was that a serial killer did it.
So, in the late 1990s, then-Middletown detective Daniel Baranoski traveled to a maximum-security penitentiary in Maryland. He sat down with Hadden Clark, a man estimated to have killed up to 13 people, many of them women, on the East Coast.
Baranoski asked Clark if he had anything to do with the fatal stabbing of a Pennsbury High School senior, Patty Bartlett, outside the Oxford Valley Mall in 1975.
Clark said he had to think about it. He stared at the prison walls as he probed his memory.
A good chunk of Clark's teen years were spent in Morrisville and Yardley. He graduated from Pennsbury in 1972. Although all his killings are believed to have occurred outside this area, it wouldn't be out of character, Baranoski thought.
But Clark's answer was "no."
Patty's murder - which occurred 35 years ago this month - remains unsolved.
Baranoski's interview with Clark is emblematic of the efforts made to try to solve the fatal stabbing.
All the rational explanations for her murder - attempted robbery, attempted sexual assault, a quarrel outside the mall with someone she knew - have gone unproven. The irrational ones, such as serial killer, haven't stuck, either.
Plenty of rumors have surrounded the killing. Baranoski conducted another jailhouse interview. Polygraph tests were administered. Potential witnesses at the mall were hypnotized. But no charges followed.
Another former Middletown detective who worked the case called it the failure of his career.
A free spirit
Patty was the second of four children. Her father, Neal, was a steelworker. Her mother, Clara, was a homemaker. The family, which includes brothers Jeff and Glenn and sister Jeanette, lived on Big Oak Road in Lower Makefield.
Patty's smile is still seared into the memories of her classmates.
"I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the school," recalled Michael Fevang, a classmate of Patty's who now lives in Maryland.
"But it wasn't just on the surface," he continued. "She had this free spirit that stood out from everyone else. And I don't mean that in the 1970s way. I mean it like she had no ego."
Patty had a passion for photography. Before she died, she was working on a series of portraits of her younger sister, who was 5, sitting on tree stumps and playing with her cat.
"When she did portraits, it wasn't the standard, looking at your face. It was over her shoulder or over your shoulder," said another classmate, Daniel Hornick, of Levittown. "It was very artistic."
Patty's love of photography took her to the mall on the evening of Jan. 13, a Monday. Snow was in the forecast, inspiring her to take photos.
Patty needed to buy photo paper and toner at the mall. That evening, she parked the family's light green Olds-mobile Cutlass near the mall entrance east of Gimbels, which is now Sears. A regular at The Camera Shop, she chatted with employees at the counter.
It was dark - about 5:30 p.m. - when Patty returned to the Oldsmobile. Snow and sleet shrouded the parking lot.
The 17-year-old was stabbed four times - twice in the chest and twice in the groin area. The knife was believed to be sharp, three quarters of an inch thick and 6 inches or 7 inches long.
Patty staggered 100 feet from the car to Gimbels, collapsing inside. Her hands clutched her umbrella and purse. Her wallet was still inside her purse, untouched.
In the ambulance, paramedics asked Patty for her name, address and religion, which she gave. No one asked for details about the stabbing.
"You can't fault the rescue squad," said Anthony Maniscola, a former Middletown detective and the lead investigator on the case in 1975. "They were trying to keep her conscious and alive."
Patty lived for another 50 minutes. She died at Middletown's St. Mary Medical Center. One of the stab wounds punctured her lung and heart. The cause of her death was internal bleeding.
Initially, there was some confusion about the stabbing victim's identity, Patty's older brother, Jeff recalled.
That evening, Jeff, who was 19, was at his girlfriend's house watching television. His girlfriend's father got a call from police. They told him his daughter had been stabbed to death, Jeff Bartlett said.
But Jeff's girlfriend's father told the officer: "That can't be. I'm staring at her right now."
It turned out Patty had Jeff's girlfriend's ID. The drinking age back then was 18.
When Maniscola, the Middletown detective, arrived at the mall, he found blood on the exterior doors of Gimbels and on the floor inside. He told a janitor to stop mopping it up.
The detective followed a trail of blood to the Oldsmobile. A bag of photography supplies was getting wet on the pavement. Patty's blood was washing away in the sleet.
Later on, Maniscola went to the hospital. He was there when Patty's father arrived. She was already dead.
Neal Bartlett cradled Patty in his arms, telling her everything was going to be OK.
Twelve detectives from Middletown and the county worked the case. They set up a trailer outside the mall.
Detectives started interviewing everyone Patty knew, including her boyfriend and folks she worked with at Cocos, a restaurant on Lincoln Highway.
The mall itself was its own kind of lead. Relatively new and situated off Route 1, the mall enticed criminals from Philadelphia and Trenton. In the months prior to the murder, Maniscola said he arrested plenty of thieves, muggers and purse-snatchers who lived outside the county.
Patty's death was announced on the high school's loud speaker the next morning. Tragedy wasn't new to Pennsbury that year. In October and November, two students died in car wrecks. Another suffered a brain aneurysm. A fourth student was accidentally shot and killed by his father.
But Patty's murder came with no explanation. The cops had no witnesses and little evidence. The murder weapon wasn't recovered.
A bystander outside the mall later told police he heard a disturbance. He saw a woman move from one side of his peripheral vision to another. But he figured kids were goofing around.
After a few days, police said they were looking for a blue Volkswagen, pre-1968 model, which was seen cruising the mall that night before speeding away.
Detectives hired a hypnotist, a doctor in New Jersey, to try to get more information from bystanders. It produced a license plate number of a blue Volkswagen - but not necessarily the one seen that night. It was driven by a man from New Jersey. He was cleared.
After another few days, police said they were looking for a man who drove a 1963 or 1964 model Dodge Dart with blue paint and a loud motor. Police released a composite sketch of a white man with collar-length brown hair and a pock-marked, ruddy face. He wore a brown coat.
The sketch led to calls from as far away as Delaware and Connecticut. No arrests followed.
A source close to the investigation in 1975 said police put together numerous "lead cards" on the case, focusing on possible suspects. Someone would call and give a name or some information. The detectives then followed up.
For instance, if the person drove a blue Volkswagen, police would learn that the man wrecked it weeks before the killing. And they would double check that with the junk yard. Or the person was still out of the country, serving in the military, at the time of the killing.
"Everything within reason was followed up and double checked," the source said.
"There was never any one particular person that at least I myself locked in on," the source continued. "Some cases, you have a hunch and you chase it and you get lucky. On this one, no."
A knife was found outside the mall many months after the murder. But it couldn't be directly traced back to Patty.
Maniscola often thinks about the case.
"When I was a detective (in Middletown), I locked up a guy who raped a 9-year-old girl," Maniscola said. "I felt really good about that. But I feel that this case was the biggest failure of my career."
Baranoski, who is now a district judge, picked up the case in the 1990s. He said Patty's boyfriend was questioned several times by police over the years. And he cooperated with them. Baranoski said the boyfriend was given two polygraph tests, which he passed.
Baranoski said a man serving a long prison sentence in Buffalo, N.Y., called to say he had information. But all he could offer was speculation - nothing about the actual stabbing.
Then, someone from the community suggested Clark, the serial killer.
"Assuming no rational explanation, then you look at the possibility that something irrational happened," Baranoski said.
Baranoski developed a rapport with the detectives who had investigated Clark. They believed he wouldn't lie to Baranoski. Clark, who was serving a life sentence, had nothing to lose.
After he denied involvement, "we were back to square one," Baranoski said.
In 1975, a garden was planted in Patty's memory inside the front entrance of Pennsbury High School. A plaque with her name on it and a poem still hang nearby. So does a black-and-white sketch of her face.
Over the years, the plants in the garden kept dying. There was often more dirt than foliage. The garden bed, which sits under a staircase and is shallow because of the building's foundation, was hard to maintain, officials said.
Eventually, the school put artificial ferns and other plants in the mulch. A school administrator said she asked Patty's mother if it was OK.
Glenn Bartlett said he doesn't care much for the fake plants.
"Artificial is dead," he said. "Living is alive."
Recently, like a chorus, Jeff, Glenn and Jeanette said the same thing - that someone has information about Patty's murder but they're not talking.
"They must have no conscience or no soul," Glenn Bartlett said. "If somebody knows something, it's time to put things to rest."
Anyone with information is asked to call Middletown Detective Andrew Amoroso at 215-750-3863.
Ben Finley can be reached at 215-949-4203 or bfinley@philllyBurbs.com.
January 31, 2010 02:49 AM
08-15-2013, 12:49 PM #2Registered User
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- Oct 2009
PA - Patty Bartlett, 17, Stabbed to death, Oxford Valley Mall, Middletown, 1975
Here is an article about the case to start us off:
08-16-2013, 01:54 PM #3Registered User
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- Jun 2012
I'm trying to wrap my head around this piece of information from the article:
"After a few days, police said they were looking for a blue Volkswagen, pre-1968 model, which was seen cruising the mall that night before speeding away.
Detectives hired a hypnotist, a doctor in New Jersey, to try to get more information from bystanders. It produced a license plate number of a blue Volkswagen - but not necessarily the one seen that night. It was driven by a man from New Jersey. He was cleared."
Soooo....it's a coincidence that they are looking for a blue VW and it just so happens when a bystander is hypnotized, he/she gives a license plate number that just so happens to match a blue VW in New Jersey???
For those not familiar with the area, the state line of NJ is probably about a 15 minute drive from the Oxford Valley Mall.
08-16-2013, 04:15 PM #4Registered User
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- Feb 2006
It sounds like a stranger attack, someone who just wanted to attack/kill out of rage and anyone would've done. Wrong place at the wrong time. If Patty knew her attacker and had enough strength left to make it inside for help, surely she would've told them who did it.
08-16-2013, 05:01 PM #5
Here's an older article -- at the link, you can click to get a pdf of the story.
Perplexing Patty Bartlett murder is still unsolved (02/21/77)
Story includes a picture of Patty -- very pretty girl.
Volkswagen, 1975 -- you almost have to wonder, "Ted Bundy?", no matter how much of a cliche it might seem. Although his car was tan, I believe...?
Her murder was Jan. 13, 1975, I think he was not incarcerated (later escaping) until Aug. 1975. She sure looked his "type". Hmmm.
ETA: But it looks like Ted had a victim in Colorado on Jan. 12, 1975 -- so it would be a long trip and a long stretch, I reckon...
Last edited by OkieGranny; 04-12-2015 at 02:41 AM. Reason: fixed broken link
08-16-2013, 05:39 PM #6Registered User
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- Jul 2013
- Las Vegas, NV
Just some thoughts and of course JMO. Since she was stabbed,from what I have read - a lot of times this indicates emotional involvement and since the wounds were in the area of sexual organs- it could be personal. It could be another female who was jealous of her. Or a male who she had rejected. There was no robbery so I think this was personal.
I know the detectives have been really thorough. And I agree with them - someone knows something. Again- just my 2 cents.
08-18-2013, 02:34 PM #7Registered User
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- Oct 2009
But women don't generally stab as a rule, right?
08-19-2013, 03:49 PM #8
Could it have been a stalker type of person? Like maybe an ex-boyfriend who didn't want to believe they were no longer a couple? Or someone who saw her chatting with the people at the camera store and became jealous? I am not saying either one of those scenarios indicate a reasonable person, but this was a quick and violent crime without obvious motivation (e.g., she wasn't robbed because she still had her purse and her purchases were found beside her car).
A witness thought it was "kids playing around" which makes me wonder if perhaps there was a slight scuffle beforehand which, in low visibility, did not look like the prelude to a stabbing.
I thought a lot was made of the fact she was a photographer. Granted, this could merely be to put a personality to her face on the part of people reporting the story at the time. But, there could also be a clue in this. I don't know, I have a feeling about it. I could, however, be wrong. She sounds like she had a good eye for taking photographs.
The article said she took some photos at the mall. I also read that some new types of criminals had started hanging around the mall preying on people. Did someone think she had taken an incriminating photograph of them that day? Was her camera found? What about the photos she took that day?
I am not saying she was aware she might have taken a photo someone did not want taken. In fact, she might not have done any such thing in reality. But, someone may have believed she did.
08-23-2013, 01:26 PM #9Registered User
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- Jun 2012
I clicked the first link on Philly Burbs and then the "Unsolved" tab on the news page. It is shocking to me that there are over 20 unsolved brutal crimes or missing persons in this area. Bristol/Morrisville have pretty small populations. This one caught my eye too because the suspect killed another woman years before, but it seems he was incarcerated at the time Patty Bartlett was murdered.
03-21-2014, 12:52 PM #10Registered User
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- Oct 2009
It does seem odd to have that many cases in a small area, but Pocatello, ID had a lot of weird cases like that and so did an area in Montana. It seems in the 70s, a whole lot of women were getting killed.
09-26-2016, 07:03 PM #11
The first thing I thought up was the janitor mopping up the blood. Could he have been involved and tried to clean up the evidence, and maybe been on break outside? Wouldn't they know that the crime scene evidence should not be tampered with? Would a manager order the janitor to clean up right away? You know the detectives and police are coming to seal off the place, and probably shut down the store.
I remember the Case of Debbie Wilson at Drexel University, where I attended, who was at a computer lab for late hours. This case was personal for me, because I was attending class literally across the street on the morning they found her. The murderer end up being a University worker working that night, and the case was unsolved for about 10 years, before the Vidocq Society studied the case. And you know, I knew people working in the buildings, and they kind of knew it was an inside job, but there was no evidence at the time.
In this case, maybe there is a simpler answer than some stranger in a blue car. Maybe one of the workers did it.
09-26-2016, 07:15 PM #12
So there are no witnesses or evidence, yet this happened near the mall entrance at 5:30 on a dark, snowy night.
So, who is hanging out in front of this mall at this rush hour? Smokers maybe? People waiting for a bus? Is a serial killer really hanging out there at rush hour on a snowy night?
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