Forty-five years ago today a man was gunned down in a rural wooded area of Pennsylvania.
The peace of Chestnuthill Township, a small, river valley community south of Scranton, was broken when the body of Alfred L. Barnes was discovered on Oct. 19, 1968. He’d been shot multiple times, with gunshot wounds to the hands, face and head.
For 45 years the friends and family of the 40-year-old Barnes never saw justice. But Thursday, Richard F. Keiper, the alleged killer, was arrested and charged with the murder.
Keiper, 67, lived in the 500 block of Cemetery Road in Boyd. He’s been living quietly in that community for about 40 years, where he and his wife raised their children.
He might have lived out the remainder of his years there if not for the cold case unit of the Pennsylvania State Police. They worked with local law enforcement to track down Keiper, get a confession and eventually an arrest.
“Investigators in Pennsylvania called back in September,” said Wise County Sheriff David Walker. “They went and talked to him in Boyd, and he admitted to shooting Barnes back in ’68.”
On Sept. 24, Keiper confessed to Texas Ranger James Holland and Sgt. Clint Caddell with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office that he had, indeed, shot and killed Barnes.
Keiper told investigators he and Barnes had driven to a remote location near Chestnuthill Township in Barnes’ 1969 Ford Thunderbird. They grappled for a .32 caliber handgun inside the vehicle, and that’s when Keiper shot Barnes three times. He then pulled Barnes’ body out of the car and left it lying face down in the dirt where it was discovered the next day. Forensics from the scene indicate that Barnes was lying on the ground, and Keiper stood over him and shot him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Keiper stole the vehicle and abandoned it in a rural area of New Jersey. Not long after the murder, Keiper left Pennsylvania “to start a new life by joining a traveling carnival.”
Barnes, who was 40 at the time he was killed, was assistant to the vice president of Bethlehem Steel. The company was the second-largest steel producer in the nation until it went bankrupt in 2001.
Keiper was raised in the area near the murder scene and attended elementary school in the township.
Authorities in Pennsylvania knew as early as 1971 that Keiper might be the culprit in the murder. In July of that year, a man named Quaquo Kelly told investigators Keiper approached him in a bar and tried to sell him, for $10 dollars, “the gun that killed a guy from Bethlehem Steel.” He also offered to sell him clothes that had belonged to Barnes.
At the time investigators were not able to locate Keiper, and the case went cold. Only a few years later Keiper was living a brand new life in Boyd.
But in August, cold case investigators tracked down Kelly, who again confirmed the same story he’d told police 42 years ago.
Keiper’s record in Wise County is clean with nothing worse than a 2008 traffic ticket in Bridgeport.
However, he might be connected to more cold cases in Virginia, Florida and Texas.
“They are looking at some old, unsolved cases in those states that show some similarities to the (Barnes) case,” Walker said. “As for our end, we don’t have any murder cases in Wise County that fit that.”
Anyone with any information concerning Keiper is encouraged to call Trooper Donald Marsh, Corporal Shawn Williams or Corporal Thomas McAndrew with Pennsylvania State Police at 570-459-3890.