Mercer County man ordered to trial for 2016 murder of woman found near Johnstown hiking trail

Patrick Buchnowski, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read

Mar. 19—A Mercer County man was ordered Friday to stand trial, accused of murdering a Blairsville woman in 2016 and dumping her body near a hiking trail in Johnstown.

Christopher George Rowe, 46, was held for court following a three-hour preliminary hearing before District Judge Michael Musulin, of Johnstown.

Rowe is accused of killing Kaylene Roedel, 26, who was the mother of his child.

Two hikers found her body near the Honan Avenue Community Hiking & Biking Trail on Aug. 7, 2016. She was found face-up, with her legs spread apart and with her shirt, shorts and underwear cut down the middle. Police said she had been sexually assaulted.

Rowe is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and false reports to police.

He pleaded not guilty through attorneys David Raho and Maureen McQuillan, of the Cambria County Public Defender's Office.

Assistant District Attorneys Jessica Aurandt and Warren Crilly called five witnesses to give testimony.

The court heard testimony from Lia DeMarco, assistant chief for the Cambria County Detective Bureau; Johnstown police Detective Cory Adams; Dr. Kevin Whaley, a forensic pathologist; Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees; and Matthew Stockdill, a former Cambria County Prison inmate.

Testimony indicated a pattern of stalking and abuse.

DeMarco testified that Rowe was in the Cambria County Prison on July 28, 2016, when he placed two phone calls to Roedel, begging her to give him another chance.

On a phone recording played for the court, Rowe is heard expressing his love, and Roedel tells him that she can live without him.

"She made it clear she wanted nothing to do with him," DeMarco testified.

Stockdill, who was incarcerated with Rowe at the time, testified that he repeatedly heard Rowe say that he was going to kill Roedel.

Rowe was released from prison on Aug. 1, 2016, following a bond reduction hearing.

An Indiana County 911 call and a report from Blairsville police showed that Rowe arrived at Roedel's home on Aug. 3, 2016, and that she had to pepper-spray him, Adams testified.

Blairsville police went to Roedel's home on Aug. 6, 2016, one day after her family reported her missing. Police found Rowe, a woman identified as Denise Walker and other people loading items into Roedel's Blazer and a U-Haul trailer, Adams testified.

Surveillance video taken earlier that day shows Roedel's Blazer driving near Enmacon Service Corp. and turning onto a dead-end road near the Honan Avenue trail, Adams said.

On Aug. 7, hikers found Roedel's body.

Rowe has admitted to driving the Blazer on Aug. 6, but blamed Roedel's death on Walker, Adams said.

A report from the state police crime lab found Rowe's DNA in blood found on Roedel's underwear, Adams said.

Whaley and Lees said Roedel's cause of death was "homicidal violence of undetermined etiology."

Raho asked the judge to throw out the charges.

"They couldn't establish where and when she died, and all of the findings include the word 'undetermined,' " Raho said. "They really can't establish a firm cause of death at this time."

District Attorney Gregory Neugebauer said prosecuting the case is a multi-agency effort.

"All kinds of people have put a lot of work and effort into this case," he said after the hearing. "We will continue to work hard to get justice for Ms. Roedel."

Rowe is being held without bond at Cambria County Prison.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.