A 13-year-old was stabbed more than 80 times. His older brother was convicted of the murder. But is the killer still out there?
Their parents believe so.
On Oct. 2, 1998, Greg Witman was killed in his home in New Freedom, York County, just after he got home from school. About four-and-a-half years later, his brother, Zach, was convicted of killing him and was eventually sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
“My husband and I are victims of this atrocity of justice. As parents, Ron and I have lost the most precious gift: our children,” said Sue Witman, the boys’ mother. She said the boys had a “normal, loving relationship.”
Nearly 15 years after the murder, the Witmans have a team of private investigators giving the case a new look. There’s also a $100,000 reward available for information leading to what the Witmans are killing the “real killer.” The investigative team has set up a website which can be viewed by clicking here.
The new investigative team includes former New York police detective Jay Salpeter and Lonnie Soury, whose “work has led to solving the wrongful convictions of Martin Tankleff in New York and Damien Echols, on death row in Arkansas in the West Memphis 3 case,” according to a news release.
During a news conference Wednesday, Soury said investigators at the time used “fake or faux scientific evidence” to convict Zach Witman. He also said the police investigation was not effective and that Zach had “no credible defense.”
The team also includes former Aberdeen, Maryland, police officer George Matheis, Jr., a weapons expert.
He pointed to the penknife found buried in the Witmans’ backyard after the murder, which was believed to be the weapon used in the murder.
“”I was asked whether or not I thought that this weapon could be used to inflict those injuries. My intuition and experience told me right away. No,” said Matheis.
In the process of killing Greg, investigators say the boy was nearly decapitated.
Prosecutors and the new investigative team agree on some facts about the case: Greg arrived home from school at 3:10 p.m. Erynn, Jeffrey, one of Greg’s friends, called their house soon after. Zach called 911 at 3:17 p.m. Emergency crews arrived at their home at 3:25 p.m.
The Witman team believes someone else came to the home and attacked Greg. Zach was home sick from school and heard a thud at 3:15 p.m. That’s when he discovered his younger brother. Between the time the murder took place and when the EMTs arrived, the team believes that person may have gotten out of the house and buried the penknife and gloves which were found hours later in the backyard.
“When you tussle around with soembody, even for a few minutes just playing around, you get out of breath pretty quick. When he speaks to Erynn at 3:15, she reports he was the same old Zach, and he wasn’t out of breath,” said Matheis. “So, that’s kind of, that’s very subjective to think that (Zach) would have heard something, not to mention the fact that if the windpipe is cut, then you can’t scream.”
Fox43 contacted Tim Barker, the attorney with the York County District Attorney’s office who prosecuted the case. Barker did not return calls seeking comment.
At the time of the murder, Southern Regional Police Chief James Childs said detectives were not limiting the scope of their investigation to Zach. “We’re still looking at the big picture,” he said.
Zach Witman has tried to get a retrial more than once, but those requests have been denied. He has another request pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The investigative team said they may try to get a federal court to take the case.
The investigative team and the Witmans offered a couple alternative theories as to whom the killer may be. Ron Witman said the killer may have been a stranger from out of the area.
The investigators said Greg may have had an issue with a friend.
“But there were incidents going on in Greg’s life, a dispute with another friend. And, that friend’s father had a very interesting position with the county. So, we have some theories. We are going to look into it. But, I’m not about to name any names,” said Jay Salpeter.