LEWISTOWN - Five years of heartache have strengthened the resolve of two families who are as determined as ever to find a killer.
The family and friends of two people who were brutally killed on Nov.25, 2007 gather every year beneath a billboard outside Huntingdon and invite the media, in the hopes someone will read an article, or watch a news broadcast and remember something about that night which could aid police in catching the perpetrator.
Jason Specht, 33, and Sherry Jo Leonard, 43, were killed in a mobile home along U.S. 522 in Granville township on a cold November morning.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Jarrett Specht, son of the late Jason Specht, pleads during a press conference Thursday at the billboard near Huntingdon asking for anyone with information about the murder of his father and Sherry Jo Leonard to come forward. It is the five-year anniversary of the murders.
Specht and Leonard were discovered by firemen and police officers at around 4 a.m. on the above day, after they were summoned to Specht's home for a reported fire. By the time firemen got to Spechts residence, the home was almost fully engulfed in flames.
Leonard was pronounced dead at the scene and Specht died shortly thereafter at the emergency room in Lewistown Hospital. One month later, Mifflin County coroner Daniel P. Lynch ruled the deaths were homicides and said the cause of death for both victims was skull fractures that occurred prior to the start of the fire. According to initial reports, the bulk of the fire, which was ruled an arson, occurred in the bedroom area.
On Thursday, Mifflin Count District Attorney Dave Molek said it was time to take the "next step" in the investigation by requesting time with a statewide grand jury
Molek said he has already made contact with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, but no decision has been made yet as to when a grand jury could begin hearing sworn testimony.
Molek explained the significance of a grand jury is that witnesses can be subpoenaed and thus be compelled to testify under oath.
At the time of the murders, investigators had been able to nail down where "most everyone was, with just a couple exceptions," Molek said.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Michael Elder, the lead investigator who has worked on the case for the past three years, also spoke during the event. Elder has a photograph of the victims above his desk at the state police barracks in Lewistown, which he looks at every day.
Elder said the billboard typically generates leads every year, and he hopes someone will come forward with that valuable piece of missing information which could lead to an arrest.
Molek said there is no statute of limitations on murder and the case is still actively under investigation.
Leonard's sister, Michele Huntsman, said she appreciates all the support from the community and law enforcement.
"We are not giving up ... we are not going away," she said.
Specht's son, who was 10 years old at the time of his father's death, choked back tears as he spoke to reporters.
"If anybody knows anything, please, please come forward," Jarrett Specht said.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the Pennsylvania State Police in Lewistown at 320-1010.