MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press
A Texas man was arrested on murder charges nearly 45 years to the day after the bullet-riddled body of his alleged victim, a Bethlehem Steel employee, was found in a northeastern Pennsylvania field.
Richard Keiper told authorities he had fled Pennsylvania after shooting 40-year-old Alfred Barnes “in order to start a new life by joining a traveling carnival,” police said. He is now married with one child and two stepchildren and had been living quietly in Texas for many years, said Cpl. Thomas McAndrew, a state police investigator.
Keiper, 67, of Boyd, Texas, was arrested Thursday and will be returned to Pennsylvania to face murder charges in the death of Barnes, an assistant to the vice president at Bethlehem Steel. Police say Keiper confessed when he was interviewed by a Texas Ranger last month.
Hunters found Barnes’ body in a field Chestnuthill Township, Monroe County, on Oct. 19, 1968. He had been shot multiple times at close range. His new 1969 Ford Thunderbird was later recovered in Warren County, N.J., where authorities found Barnes’ blood and a .32-caliber bullet on the drivers’ side floor.
Keiper first came under suspicion as troopers worked the case decades ago, McAndrew said.
“For some reason, the case went cold, and Keiper was never tracked down and interrogated. Recently, one of our troopers saw that as a loose end,” McAndrew said.
Keiper was arrested without incident at his job at a wastewater treatment plant. He is jailed in Wise County and does not yet have an attorney. A message left Friday at a phone listing for Keiper was not returned.
It’s not clear how Keiper and Barnes were acquainted, or what led to the long-ago shooting.
“The victim was described as being someone who was typically well dressed and who expressed pride in his new vehicle,” police wrote in an arrest affidavit.
Police learned of Keiper’s possible connection to the slaying in 1971, when a witness named Quaquo Kelly came forward and said that Keiper had approached him in a bar and offered to sell a gun for $10. Keiper allegedly told Kelly he had “shot a guy from Bethlehem Steel in the hand” with the gun. He also offered to sell some of the victim’s clothes, court documents said.
Police at the time never followed up. Kelly was reinterviewed in August and confirmed what he had reported in 1971.
Keiper, interviewed Sept. 24, told police he shot Barnes at least three times during a struggle for the gun inside Barnes’ car. Keiper then pulled Barnes from the car and drove to New Jersey, where he abandoned the vehicle and hitched a ride to the Allentown area, according to the affidavit.
Keiper grew up in the Poconos and in the Allentown area. He also has ties to Virginia and Florida. Pennsylvania State Police said they are trying to learn more about Keiper and are seeking to talk to anyone who has information about him.