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Richard Keiper faces charges in murder of Bethlehem Steel worker 45 years ago

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 08 2013 11:26:46 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 08 2013 05:51:53 PM CST

A man extradited from Texas was in court Friday to answer murder charges in a 45-year-old case.

BRODHEADSVILLE, Pa. -

Friday was a day of reckoning that prosecutors might say was 45 years in the making.

Richard Keiper, the Texas man charged with murdering a Bethlehem Steel employee in 1968, faced the music in a Monroe County courtroom on Friday.

The case was bound over for trial, but the preliminary hearing was anything but typical. 

The case is more than 4-decades-old. None of the original investigating officers are alive. There wasn't even a crimes code when the killing happened, and a 96-year-old former coroner was called in to testify.

"It amazes me that so many people are still alive that were involved," said Monroe County District Attorney David Christine.

"It's clear to me as it was yesterday," said William Kresge, the former coroner.

It's the same story for 71-year-old Lee Hoffner. He testified that 45 years ago, he found the body of Alfred Barnes, 40, in a Chestnuthill Township field.

"Hard to believe they didn't find what they did find after 45 years," Hoffner said.

Keiper, now 67, shot and killed Barnes four times, including three to the head, then stole his car and dumped it in New Jersey before joining a traveling carnival and settling in Texas, prosecutors said.

"When crime as committed, law at the time applies, not the law today," Christine said.

That is why prosecutors dug up a 1930s penal code handbook. The investigating officer, who took over the cold case, testified he tracked Keiper down after interviewing Quaquo Kelly.

Back in 1971, the Emmaus, Lehigh Co., told police his bar buddy, Keiper, offered to sell him the gun that he said used to shoot Barnes in the hand.

As for the defense, they're hoping the scant physical evidence leaves room for doubt with a jury.

"Science is off. We only have one person who can say exactly what happened that day and that's Mr. Keiper," said Jennifer Bathon, the public defender.

Police said Keiper has given conflicting versions of what happened.

In one, he said Barnes initially pulled a gun on him another he says a third man named Steve was the trigger man.