Pennsylvania councilman arrested three decades after woman's death

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2012 7:53 PM
Pennsylvania councilman arrested three decades after woman's death

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A borough councilman in Western Pennsylvania was in jail on Monday, charged with strangling a lover whose body, bound with rope, was found in her bed more than 30 years ago.

Tenacious detectives, who held onto physical evidence collected in the 1979 murder of Catherine Walsh, were credited with cracking the decades old cold case by using DNA matching, a forensic tool not even introduced when the killing occurred.

Gregory Scott Hopkins, 65, known to fellow Bridgewater Borough council members as simply Scott Hopkins, was arrested on Sunday night and charged with Walsh's killing in nearby Monaca.

"We intend to fight this," Hopkin's attorney James Ross told Reuters on Monday.

A probable cause affidavit filed with a Beaver County court said Hopkins told police in 1979 that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with Walsh, 23, but that he had not had sexual contact with her for about a month before her death.

Police who found Walsh's strangled body in her bed, her hands bound with rope, held onto crime scene evidence including the rope, a bandana, her nightgown and bedsheets.

In October 2010, with DNA matching emerging as a successful forensic tool, police submitted the evidence for DNA testing.

"The purpose of resubmitting the items was to have them examined using methods and technology that were not available to investigators at the time (the) homicide took place," the affidavit said.

Bodily fluids on the sheets, the rope and nightgown led to the arrest, police said.

Police did not immediately disclose how they obtained a DNA sample from the councilman.

Hopkins was held without bond in the Beaver County Jail, pending a court hearing on February 6.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)