By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A Texas man faces a life term at his sentencing in Pennsylvania on Thursday for the 1968 murder of a Bethlehem Steel Corp worker in what prosecutors say is one of the nation's oldest cold cases to result in conviction.
Richard Keiper, 69, of Boyd, Texas, will be sentenced in Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He was convicted of first-degree murder in July.
Authorities say Keiper never denied shooting Alfred Barnes, 40, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, an assistant to a vice president of Bethlehem Steel, on Oct., 18, 1968 and was an early suspect in the case.
They met when Barnes offered Keiper, then 22, a ride and took him to a bar in Allentown.
At his trial this summer, Keiper said he shot Barnes in self-defense near Effort, Pennsylvania, but the jury did not believe him.
Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso argued that the motive for the crime was stealing the victim’s new Ford Thunderbird, but also suggested it could have been a gay pick-up gone wrong.
Pennsylvania State Police said they had no DNA evidence and no weapon, but did have a witness who said that in 1971, Keiper had offered for sale for $10 a pistol he claimed he used to shoot a Bethlehem Steel employee.
The witness, Quaquo Kelly, reported the encounter to state police, but by that time, Keiper had joined a traveling carnival and vanished.
Keiper was arrested decades later after Pennsylvania investigators, urged by Barnes's family not to give up on the case, re-interviewed Kelly in 2013 and found the key witness stuck to his story.
Police tracked down Keiper to Boyd, Texas, a tiny town about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Fort Worth, found him working at a sewage treatment plant and took him into custody.
Mancuso, the prosecutor, said he believes the Barnes murder is the oldest cold case in Pennsylvania to be successfully prosecuted and likely one of the top three in the nation.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)