WASHINGTON, Pa. – A jury will likely have to decide whether Alison Gebauer died before or after she was sexually assaulted.
On Wednesday, her adopted son, John Gebauer, 16, of Zippay Road, Fallowfield Township, was ordered to stand trial by District Justice Valarie Costanzo, of Cecil Township, on one count each of criminal homicide, possession of firearms by minor, abuse of a corpse, rape and attempted rape – following a preliminary hearing in Washington County Central Court.
But the scope of the case took a new turn when two new charges were filed. A charge of rape was filed June 4. Then an attempted rape charge was filed just prior to Wednesday’s hearing.
The new charges mean that the issue of when Alison Gebauer died likely will become a factor in the trial.
If she was killed before her body was sexually abused, her adoptive son could be convicted of abuse of a corpse. If she was sexually assaulted first, or did not die immediately as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head, the district attorney’s office could seek a rape conviction.
An attempted rape conviction could be sought regardless of when she died.
Ironically, the burden of proof might fall in the hands of the defense, District Attorney John C. Pettit said.
“Our position has been that all we have to do is show she was murdered and raped,” Pettit said. “That puts the burden of proof on the defense.”
Asked his opinion of the chronology of the events the night Alison Gebauer was murdered, Pettit said, “I think too much emphasis is being put on the fact that he said, ‘I murdered my mother and raped her.’ What if he said, ‘I raped my mother and murdered her?’ She was murdered and he had sex with her. I don’t know that we have to go further, but the defense might.”
Public Defender Tom Cooke questioned why the two most recent charges were filed so late.
“It was to the defense’s detriment to not notify us until today about the attempted rape charge,” Cooke said.
Charleroi Police Lt. Michael Matyas testified that he and officer Mark Yates stopped a truck driven by Gebauer twice in downtown Charleroi, shortly after midnight on Feb. 14, 2002 – once for not having his lights on and a few minutes later for erratic driving.
After following the Gebauer truck for three-tenths of a mile, the officers pulled him over. Gebauer had no license or vehicle registration and told police his father was out of town and his mother was working in Pittsburgh, Matyas said.
The officers took Gebauer to the police station and attempted to contact his mother.
Matyas testified that while at the station, the following chilling dialogue ensued:
“What happens to a minor if he commits murder?” Gebauer said.
“Why would you ask that?” Matyas replied.
“Because I murdered my mother,” Gebauer responded.
“What?” Matyas said.
“I murdered my mother and raped her.”
Under cross examination, Matyas said Gebauer never cried or showed any emotion that night.
Matyas testified that he and Fallowfield Police Capt. William Ritenour went to the Gebauer farm, where they found Alison Gebauer’s body in the barn.
Matyas testified that police found a cache of weapons in the truck that Gebauer was driving as well as five of his adoptive parents’ credit cards and $700 in cash.
Tim Berggren testified that the Gebauers were guests at the Berggrens’ home for a cookout in the summer of 2001. Berggren said he spoke to John Gebauer’s adoptive father, Ed Gebauer, about a hunter safety course the youth was attending. Berggren showed Ed and John Gebauer his handguns, which were inside a locked cabinet.
On Feb. 10, four days before the murder, John Gebauer helped Berggren work on a vehicle in the garage of the Berggren residence, he testified. The boy left the garage several times to use the bathroom, he said.
When he learned of Alison Gebauer’s death, Berggren checked his handgun cabinet and found that two of the weapons were missing.
State Trooper Sam Ferguson testified that Alison Gebauer died of a gunshot wound to the head, behind her right ear.
Ferguson testified that DNA tests revealed that John Gebauer’s semen was found on his mother.
Ferguson also testified that he traced the registration number of the alleged murder weapon to Berggren.
Cooke declined to comment on his defense strategy, including whether a plea bargain might be discussed with the district attorney’s office and whether his client’s mental capacity would be a factor.
Cooke said Gebauer has expressed remorse.
Gebauer remains in isolation from at the Washington County Correctional Facility, where he has been since his Feb. 14, 2001 arrest.
Last month, Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery denied a petition by Cooke to have the teen-ager tried as a juvenile, stating that it was unlikely he could be rehabilitated before turning 21.
Pettit has not said whether or not he will seek the death penalty. If convicted of murder, he could face life in prison.
WASHINGTON, Pa. – Standing scant feet from the man who killed her daughter, Marjorie Logan broke a two-year silence.
“May God forgive me. I rue the day we welcomed John Parker into our family,” Logan said.Referring to her adoptive grandson by his birth name, Logan held back her tears long enough Thursday to testify at the sentencing of John Frank Gebauer.Alison Logan Gebauer and her husband, Ed Gebauer, adopted John Parker and gave him their name. The 18-year-old man, in turn, took his mother’s life and sexually assaulted her on Feb. 13, 2002.For that, Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery sentenced John Frank Gebauer to 37 1/2 to 75 years in prison.Logan has not spoken publicly since her daughter’s murder, but she has attended every hearing related to the case.Ed Gebauer remained similarly silent -…until Wednesday, when he appeared in court. District Attorney John C. Pettit read a victim impact statement in which Ed Gebauer described his son as a “profound liar with deep psychological and sociopathic problems.”During the emotionally charged hearing, Emery accepted a guilty plea to third degree murder from John Gebauer, who will be 55 if he is released after serving the minimum prison term.The sentencing marked the end of a long, tumultuous case. The brutality and nature of the crime devastated family members and rocked the Mon Valley – especially the close-knit community of Fallowfield Township.Gebauer was just 15 when he walked into a barn on the family’s Brush Run Farm as his mother was feeding animals. He snuck up behind the woman with a stolen .38-caliber handgun and shot her in the head. It was never determined whether she was alive when the sexual assault took place.In an agreement between Pettit and defense attorney Dennis Paluso, the teenager pleaded guilty to third degree murder, possession of firearms by a minor, abuse of a corpse, theft of firearms, theft of credit cards and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.Charges of rape and attempted rape were withdrawn.He also was ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution to the Logans for funeral expenses and $642 to the crime victim’s support program.At Paluso’s request, Emery ordered Gebauer to undergo psychiatric counseling and to be housed in the Pine Grove State Correctional Facility in Indiana, a prison for violent offenders age 32 and younger.John Gebauer closed his eyes and hung his head as Pettit read statements by Ed Gebauer and the victim’s father, William Logan.In the statement, Ed Gebauer called his son “extremely manipulative.” He also noted that John Gebauer had deep-rooted problems when he was adopted at age 13.Psychiatrists have determined John Gebauer has above average intelligence and suffers from behavioral and social disorders.”When he came to us at 13, he talked like a baby,” Ed Gebauer wrote.John Gebauer’s biological mother, Karen Parker, died when he was 7. Before that, she turned him over to a family who eventually entered him into the foster system. He lived in four foster homes over a two-year period.In June 1999, John Gebauer was treated in Lawrence County after he threatened to commit suicide.Marjorie Logan said her daughter wanted to do something good and give John Gebauer a loving home.”We welcomed him in into our lives,” Marjorie Logan said. “He had a future most people would give anything for.”Ed Gebauer wrote that during summers, his son had no problems at home. However, he “succumbed to peer pressure” while in school, he added.He said John Gebauer ran away from home many times. He was away for more than a week in December 2001 before turning up at The Salvation Army in Pittsburgh.Ed Gebauer said he and his wife realized their son needed serious help after John Gebauer told them he felt as if someone “was taking control of him.”Ed Gebauer said that on the day of the murder, he telephoned his wife to tell her he found a psychiatrist for children in Pittsburgh and had made an appointment for the following week. He also asked his son to help his mother feed the animals.The boy agreed.”Fifteen minutes later, he shot her,” Ed Gebauer wrote.While Ed Gebauer and the victim’s family supported Pettit’s decision to negotiate a prison term rather than pursue a first-degree murder conviction at trial, they all requested the maximum penalty.A first-degree murder conviction would have carried a life prison sentence with no chance for parole.”I have no doubt he would do this again,” Ed Gebauer wrote of his his son’s potential for murder.Ed Gebauer and the victim’s parents indicated they are suffering from depression and post traumatic stress syndrome.”We have indescribable remorse,” William Logan wrote, adding that they had planned to visit their daughter the day of the murder, but decided against it because of wintry conditions.”I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we would have visited,” William Logan wrote.Emery gave John Gebauer a chance to speak before the sentence was imposed.The young man trembled and begged for help.”I know no one in this courtroom will ever forgive me and I’m not asking for forgiveness,” Gebauer said. “I do feel remorse, but I don’t show it.”Still, he cried.Through his tears, Gebauer said he had “held everything in” and that people have turned a blind eye.”If I could give my life to have Alison’s back, I would,” he said, referring to his mother by her first name. “But all I can do now is serve my time and maybe, just maybe, if I get the right treatment, I can help someone else.”Emery said she believes John Gebauer is remorseful, but showed little compassion for him.”Not only has this greatly impacted this family, but it has had a long-lasting impact for other children who may never be adopted now,” Emery said.
Teen held in killing troubled, judge told
Adoptive parents rejected counseling
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
By Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Just 14 months before John F. Gebauer fatally shot his adoptive mother and
sexually abused her corpse, a probation officer recommended he undergo an
intensive 45-day psychological diagnostic program.
His adoptive parents and their attorney, though, rejected the suggestion and
instead fashioned an alternative plan which included counseling by the wife of
the family’s lawyer, from whose house the murder weapon later was stolen.
The testimony of Addie L. Bertram, a Washington County juvenile probation
officer, came during a hearing yesterday at which defense attorney Thomas Cooke began laying the groundwork to argue that the case against the 16-year-old Fallowfield teen should be transferred to juvenile court.
Gebauer is charged with shooting Alison Gebauer, 47, on Feb. 13 and sexually
abusing her corpse. Police found her body in the barn at the family’s
Fallowfield farm early the following morning. The gun used to kill her belonged to Timothy Berggren, the family’s attorney.
Cooke contends that Gebauer suffers from a deep-seated psychosis that was
never treated. He was bounced through the foster care system for several years
until he was adopted by Alison and Edward Gebauer in August 1999, just one week shy of his 13th birthday.
Gebauer’s biological mother, Karen Parker, died of cancer when he was 6 years
Bertram testified that she met the Gebauer family in December 2000, after
John Gebauer ran away from home. RESA regional police picked him up as he
wandered on Route 88 with three loaded weapons. He spent one night at a juvenile facility and was released to his parents’ custody until a hearing was held later that month.
She testified that based on the police report and information that her office
obtained from Children and Youth Services in Lawrence and Washington counties, she told juvenile court that Gebauer would benefit from an in-depth evaluation at Vincent Diagnostic, a Latrobe treatment facility for youths 10 to 17.
The information from Lawrence County indicated that Gebauer had a
psychological disorder, had been sexually abused, suffered from an eating
disorder, exhibited manipulative behavior and had been hospitalized for suicidal tendencies just a few months before his adoption.
Bertram said that she “was afraid that he wouldn’t make an appropriate
adjustment,” without the treatment.
But at the hearing, which the Gebauers attended with Berggren, an alternative
treatment plan was approved by juvenile court authorities. That plan required
John Gebauer to undergo counseling, attend school regularly and take a hunter safety course. The counselor was Berggren’s wife, Suzanne, a social worker and longtime friend of the Gebauers.
Bertram said the Gebauers did not want to involve Children and Youth Services in the matter. She said that Alison Gebauer told her a few weeks later that there were no problems with John.
“She said everything was going fine. He was doing well in school. Everything
was wonderful and he was working with his counselor,” Bertram said.
In June 2001, the juvenile probation authorities closed their file on the
Cooke is trying to convince the judge that Gebauer never had appropriate
psychological or medical treatment despite numerous signs over the years that he needed help. With appropriate treatment, Cooke said he believes Gebauer can be rehabilitated in the juvenile system and released from custody when he turns 21.
Washington County District Attorney John Pettit said his office doubts that
is so, which is why he opted to oppose the transfer to juvenile court. The case
is being handled by Deputy District Attorney Michael Lucas.
“The reports indicate the prognosis is guarded,” Pettit said. “We don’t know
just what he may do, [if he’s released when he’s 21].”
The hearing in front of juvenile court Judge Katherine Emery will continue
Jan. 30 with testimony from expert witnesses who have evaluated the teen’s
Johnna Pro can be reached at [email protected]or 412-263-1574.
Correction/Clarification: (Published Dec. 19, 2002) Arguments in a hearing
for John F. Gebauer are being heard by Washington County Common Pleas Judge Katherine Emery. Her name was incorrect in yesterday’s editions.
ED NOTE: This website discusses the problem of adoptees killing their adoptive parents.