Suspect in 1984 Bucks County Cold Case Rape, Murder ‘Was an Animal': Key Witness

Witness admits to lying to investigators for decades because he feared suspect in Bucks County baby sitter murder

The only man who claims to have witnessed the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl inside a Bucks County apartment in 1984 says he helped cover up the crime for decades out of fear for his life.

"I feared for myself because George (Shaw) was an animal," Robert Sanders said Thursday at Shaw's trial in Bucks County Common Pleas Court, according to the Bucks County District Attorney's Office.

Shaw is accused of killing 14-year-old Barbara Rowan in August 1984.

Bucks County prosecutors contend Shaw, 56 of Geneva, Florida, drugged and suffocated Rowan, a petite teen baby-sitting Shaw's daughter, inside a Bensalem apartment, then dumped her body along a highway.

Sanders, who lived in Montgomery County at the time, testified that he helped Shaw hide Rowan's body after the killing. He testified that he was only at Sanders home at the time to get drugs in order to settle a debt with Shaw and to use methamphetamine. 

Shaw drove Sanders to his home in Bensalem — he had recently moved with his wife and daughter — where Shaw had left his daughter with a babysitter, Sanders said. "He said he gave the baby sitter something to make her feel better."

Once at the home, Shaw took the red-headed baby sitter into his bedroom and Sanders said he heard noises coming from the room. Rowan's father knocked on the door but Sanders said he didn't know where Rowan was. Sanders acknowledged he lied to Rowan's father, who said he was going to call the police.

Shaw was "looking all sweaty and wired, saying he (messed) up and all that stuff," when he emerged from the bedroom, Sanders testified.

After using the drugs, Sanders went into the bedroom to find a small body wrapped in black plastic trash bags — small strands of red hair visible at one end — on the bed.

The duo then drove the body "up the road a little bit" and dumped it over a guardrail, Sanders said.

Feeling "frustrated," Sanders demanded to get out Saw's car, he testified. As he got out of Shaw's car, Sanders said he never wanted to see Shaw again.

Shaw and Sanders were both arrested two year ago. Sanders pleaded guilty in February to hindering Shaw's apprehension by previously giving police bad information. He is set to be sentenced next week.

"I was fearing for my life," Sanders testified. "That's why I never said nothing."

Defense attorney Louis Busico says Shaw "strongly maintains his innocence." In court, Sanders acknowledged lying to investigators in 1984 and 2004, Bucks County prosecutors said.

Shaw's bench trial before Bucks County Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. resumes Friday. He's charged with criminal homicide, rape and possessing an instrument of crime.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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