The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 23, 2009

A murder case is never closed | Arrest comes in 27-year-old probe

An arrest last week in a 27-year-old Somerset County murder case should not be construed as an indictment of guilt or an investigation concluded. A person is innocent until proven guilty. In a court of law.

It is, however, testimony to what area law-enforcement officers maintain over and over: An unsolved murder is a case never closed. Murder has no statute of limitations.

John David Dawson, 59, was arrested last Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., in the 1981 brutal slaying of his then 30-year-old wife, Kathleen. She was found bludgeoned to death and burned in her car near Tire Hill in Conemaugh Township.

Police said recent information from his nephew helped lead to the arrest.

We congratulate the township and state police and the Somerset County district attorney’s office – past and present members.

“This arrest is the result of the state police’s patience, persistence and perseverance,” District Attorney Jerry Spangler said at the state police station at Somerset.

This investigation has been a team effort and it will remain so for weeks and months to come as it proceeds through the court system.

There has to be a sense of satisfaction, even relief, for the investigators who have played roles in this case, which has been open for nearly three decades.

There also has to be some peace of mind, finally, for 83-year-old Roy Thomas, Kathleen’s father, who many of us at The Tribune-Democrat have come to know over the years through story updates, and Readers’ Forum letters, which he penned faithfully each year around the November anniversary of the slaying.

We felt his frustrations and served as sounding boards for his comments and pleas as he agonized.

How horrible it must be to not have closure in such a terrible family tragedy.

“I’m a sick man,” he would say over the past few years, “but I’ve got to hang in there until (her killer) is brought to justice.”

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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