Police make arrest in 34-year-old homicide cold case of murdered Adams County woman – The Evening Sun


Pennsylvania State Police have made an arrest in a case in which an 85-year old woman was found dead in her Oxford Township home nearly 34 years ago. 

The body of Edna Laughman was discovered on Aug. 13, 1987, inside her home in the 1500 block of Carlisle Pike, by neighbors and relatives. She was last seen alive the day before when she was dropped off at her home, after attending a church service. 

Chris Joseph Larry Speelman, 58, of New Oxford, faces multiple charges including criminal homicide, rape, robbery and burglary, Pennsylvania State Police announced at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Troop H Gettysburg Station in Straban Township.

Speelman was arrested Tuesday morning, after a DNA sample of his semen was found to be an absolute match to a sample collected at the scene of the crime in 1987. 

In August 2018, the DNA extracted from swabs collected from the victim were transferred to Parabon Nanolabs in Pittsburgh, for genetic genealogy analysis. The new developments in technology allowed Parabon to reveal a list of surnames of likely ancestors of the murderer, according to the affidavit, signed by Trooper Jeremy Holderbraum, and Cpl. Nate Hatlaub, both members of the state police.

The two surnames revealed were Laughman and Speelman, and further research identified that Speelman had actually lived directly next door to the victim 10 years prior to her death.

Pennsylvania State Lt. Mark Magyar says solving the case was due to the advances in genetic genealogy and hard work by the members of the Pennsylvania State Police and other partners, adding “The efforts of this investigative team over the past three years are exemplary,” 

Magyar said the motive for Speelman murdering Laughman began with an intent to steal.

“But she (Edna) was home, and so he attacked her, then he overcame her, suffocated her, and sexually assaulted her, ” Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett said.  

“This is an example that killers and rapists will never avoid capture,” Sinnett added.

Speelman has lived in New Oxford for the past 33 years.

Sinnett added, “This is further evidence that an investigation is never over, until justice is served,”

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