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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, US. On November 3 1998, a man and a woman encountered a gunman on the front porch the two shared with their neighbors. The man was shot and killed and his fiancée was left for dead. The woman called 911 after hearing the gunman flee in a vehicle. The police responded and found one male dead and another male seriously injured. Police also discovered the body of a woman inside, who was the wife of the injured male. The Chambersburg Police Department began their investigation of what appeared to be a double homicide and two attempted murders.

Fig.1 The house where the murder took place.

The woman who had called the police advised the 911 operator that her fiancé, named Jim, had been shot and that the offender was outside the house. The other injured male was identified as Travis. He had been shot and stabbed and was soaked in blood. Jim and his fiancée had just returned home from dinner. They exited their car and walked toward their porch at 395. Suddenly the door to 391 opened quickly and a white male pointed a handgun at them. The subject fired toward Jim, who was standing behind his fiancée. She covered her head and fell to the floor. The male then fired a second shot at her. She played dead and held her breath. She advised the police that the shooter had driven away in Travis’ wife’s Jeep Cherokee.

Fig.2 Police arrived to a call of “shot fired, man down.” One man was dead at the scene, the other man was transported to the hospital.

The responding officers asked the injured Travis where the gun was and who the actor was. He said nothing, but motioned toward Jim. Travis was taken to the local hospital and later flown to another hospital due to his severe injuries. While being transported, he was questioned as to what had taken place. He said he didn’t want to talk about it.

The front door of 391 was standing open and the responding officers observed a large amount of blood on the stairs and walls leading to the second floor. Police did an emergency sweep of the residence for additional victims and/or perpetrators. Officers entered the master bedroom where there appeared to have been a violent struggle. Officers observed something on the bed covered by a comforter.

The comforter was pulled back revealing the nude body of a woman later identified as Christine, who was Travis’ wife. Her body displayed a severe laceration across her chest. Her hands and wrists had been bound and secured to the headboard of the bed with duct tape. Her head and face were wrapped in duct tape covering her eyes and mouth. She was dead.

Fig.3 A large bloody knife and bloodstains were found in the bedroom.

The victim had multiple stab wounds and had a gaping sharp force injury to her chest and abdomen. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as multiple stab wounds of the chest and lungs. The stab wounds had penetrated into the heart and lungs. The downward portion of the evisceration wound measured over a foot long and penetrated some six inches. The wound was consistent with a sawing motion. Four postmortem incisions of the neck, facial injuries and hemorrhage of her scalp were also recorded.

A trail of blood led from the foyer across the living room and into the kitchen. In the kitchen, the blood pooled in an area beneath an empty wall-mounted phone base. Bloodstains were observed on the linoleum floor in the kitchen as well as the stairs leading up to the master bedroom. Two bullet holes were observed in the living room ceiling, originating from the master bedroom. A bullet hole was observed in the left side of the doorframe of 391 where a bullet had been fired at the reporting witness. There were a number of blood smears on the carpet upstairs in the bedroom and spare bedroom and blood smears on the walls. Preliminary investigation indicated that Christine had been raped, murdered, and sexually mutilated in her home.

Fig.4 Valuable microscopic evidence was retrieved from both the body and immediate area surrounding the body.

The crime scene investigators had recovered a minimag flashlight, rolls of duct tape, and a buck knife that had apparently been brought to the scene. A seminal stain found on the carpet next to the bed and two light bulbs, which had been removed from the ceiling fixture, were deposited on the floor. The victim had suffered a large laceration to her chest, which extended from the right side across her left breast downward at an angle across her abdomen. She had also received a stab wound to the left side of her chest and multiple stab wounds to the left side of her neck and throat area.

The comforter and bedclothes were collected and processed separately. A bloodstain on the left side of the fitted sheet showed that both sides of a knife blade had been wiped on it. It was at this time that the extent of the duct tape bondage was realized. There were massive amount of duct tape wrapped around her hands, therefore, the investigators used a reciprocating saw to cut the headboard around Christine’s hands so that the wrappings could be brought intact to the autopsy.

Fig.5 The woman was secured to the bed with duct tape and covered with the bed covers.

The parents of Michael Singley appeared at the crime scene and advised detectives that their son, Michael, who was suffering from depression, might be involved. They advised the detectives that Michael knew that his cousin, Travis, had a gun and the family thought he may have gone to the house to get the gun to commit suicide. It was later determined that Michael had called his fiancée to advise her that he loved her and had implied during that call that she would not see him again.

Michael Singley emerged as a viable suspect as additional information became available. At 1:45 a.m., Sargeant Dianne Kelso located the public phone that Michael had used to call his fiancée. She found bloody fingerprints on the receiver and bloody napkins in a trashcan beside the phone. Christine’s Jeep was located in a field in a construction area about a block away from Singley’s home.

Fig.6 The offender had eviscerated the victim after plunging a knife into her left chest. The stab wounds penetrated into the heart and lungs.

On November 4, Travis identified his assailant as his cousin, Michael Singley. He didn’t understand why Michael stabbed and shot him. Travis also didn’t know that his wife, Christine, was dead. Travis stated that he arrived at his residence and saw his wife’s Jeep parked out front. He called his wife’s name and there was no answer. He proceeded upstairs where his cousin Michael, who pointed a gun at him, confronted him. Michael ordered him into the bedroom and then told him to lie on the floor. He then began to stab him. Travis, realizing he would be killed, struggled with his cousin, who grabbed the gun and shot him. Michael then fled the residence.

Travis told the detectives that he tried to call for help, but couldn’t find the phone. Travis slid down the stairs and went to the kitchen, but that phone was also missing. He got his car keys and was going to drive for help. As he opened the front door, Travis saw a body on the ground and assumed it was Michael. Travis saw that Christine’s Jeep was missing and believed that his wife had been able to escape. Travis began to beat on the neighbor’s door for assistance and then collapsed on the front porch.

Fig.7 The victim had been eviscerated and her hands were tied over her head with duct tape to the bed board.

Christine was the obvious focus of this lust murder. She was totally nude and her clothing had been cut from her body. Her hands and wrists were bound with large amounts of duct tape. Duct tape covered her eyes and mouth leaving her nose exposed. Her legs and feet were also bound. The offender knew that his cousin, Travis, would not be home until later that evening. Michael went to the house with the intent of sexually assaulting his cousin’s wife and then staging the scene to make it appear that a stranger had perpetrated the crime. Singley had removed the light bulbs from the ceiling fixture and had covered the body with a comforter prior to Travis returning home. He was in the process of staging the scene for discovery.

Fig.8 The victim’s throat was cut and she had suffered numerous stab wounds to her body including a long laceration from her breast to her abdomen.

While detectives were processing the master bedroom at the crime scene, Michael Singley was taken into custody. He was hiding at his house, which was surrounded by tactical officers. Detective Sargeant Kelso had made contact with him by telephone and was negotiating with him to surrender. Shortly before 2 p.m. he surrendered to tactical officers who were outside his residence.

Detective Sergeant Kelso, who was supervising this aspect of the investigation, requested a search warrant, which was executed at about 6 p.m. on November 4. A Smith & Wesson .44 magnum was recovered along with ammunition and the keys for Christine’s Jeep. In addition, notes written by Singley to his family and fiancée requesting they visit him in prison were found. Bloodstained clothing and his sneakers, which matched the sneaker print in the master bedroom, were also seized.

Fig.9 There had been a bloody altercation in the bedroom. The offender had removed a light bulb to darken the crime scene. He inadvertently left his fingerprints on the bulb.

Detective Sergeant Kelso interviewed Singley at the police station during which time he made statements. He believed all four persons were dead and claimed that he was having dreams about hurting people. He stated that he had planned on killing himself after killing Christine and Travis. Singley refused to discuss what happened to Christine. He only admitted that he killed her and that she was dead prior to Travis returning home.

Singley stated that he had purchased the duct tape, knife, and shells for Travis’s gun that afternoon. He drove to the area of his cousin’s residence and parked. He knew that Travis was in school that evening. He went to the residence and told Christine that his car had broken down and that he needed assistance. Christine allowed him into the house and then went upstairs to change. Singley entered the bedroom while she was changing. He began to struggle with her, knocking her to the floor.

Fig.10 Christine Jane Beckner Rohrer was only 23-years-old.

Singley stated that he wrapped duct tape around her arms and legs to secure her and removed the phone from the bedroom. He said he then went down to the kitchen and removed that phone. When he returned to the master bedroom, he discovered that Christine had gotten free and had locked the door. He stated that he kicked in the door and again struggled with her, subduing her, and taping her to the bed. Singley would not discuss anything else involving her. Singley then described Travis returning home unexpectedly and the ensuing assault during which he suffered a stab wound to the leg. He described the shooting of the neighbors and leaving the scene in Christine’s Jeep, which he abandoned. He stated he hid in a shed behind his house until he could get in.

Fig.11 Michael B. Singley. SCI Phoenix state prison where he is incarcerated.

Singley was charged with two counts of criminal homicide and two counts of attempt to commit homicide. He was also charged with rape, criminal trespass, and theft of a motor vehicle. During his interrogation, Singley alluded to the fact that he was depressed and wanted to commit suicide. Singley thought that he needed to commit a horrific crime in order to kill himself and that’s why he killed Christine and then attacked his cousin, Travis.

The jury in the penalty phase decided Singley was guilty of first degree murder with aggravating circumstances and recommended death. The judge sentenced Singley to death in the killing of Christine and life imprisonment for the murder of the other victim, who was shot as the offender fled from the rape–murder scene. Michael B. Singley is currently avaiting his execution at the SCI Phoenix state prison in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

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