By Melissa Klaric
Special to the Tribune
HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mercer County —
Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III officially ruled the death of a well-known area Greenville businessman and part-time Conneaut Lake resident a homicide after an autopsy showed more than 70 stab wounds on his body.
Frank Crash’s body was examined by pathologist Dr. Eric Vey in Erie Friday morning. McGonigle was not willing to say what kind of weapon may have been used to stab Crash, preferring that Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems provide further details after the investigation is finished.
Crash’s obituary appears on Page A10.
Pamela Higbee of Greenville, who is one of Crash’s daughters, told police she went to his home when he didn’t show up for work at Frank Crash Auto Wrecking — a business Crash has owned since 1959.
According to court records, Higbee told police she found her father lying on the floor in a pool of blood, with a cellphone that had been snapped in two laying beside him.
Police said it appears someone broke in through the back door of the Crash home at 362 Mercer Ave., Greenville. The landline telephone inside the home was also ripped from the wall, police said.
On Thursday, Hempfield Township police requested three warrants from Mercer County Magisterial District Judge Ronald E. Antos to search Crash’s home and garage, along with four vehicles for evidence, as well as search for the murder weapon. Police also requested cellphone records from Verizon, looking at text messages and data use on Crash’s phone.
No one has been arrested nor any suspects named, according to investigators.
An affidavit filed at Antos’ office Thursday said police wanted to speak with another daughter of Crash’s, Susan Brenneman of 21 S. Mercer St., Greenville, because an off-duty police officer saw her walking toward her father’s home early Wednesday afternoon. The officer said he saw Brenneman, dressed in a light blue shirt and blue jeans, between 1:30 and 2 p.m., according to the affidavit.
When police located Brenneman Thursday, she was walking near her home and had three bandages wrapped around the fifth finger on her right hand, according to the affidavit. She told police she cut her finger opening a can, police said.
Police said they went to Brenneman’s apartment Thursday with a search warrant and met John Rice, who told police he lived there with Brenneman. Rice invited the police into the apartment while he carried items in from his car, police said.
According to the affidavit, while police were in the apartment, suspected dried blood was spotted by officers on the bathroom floor, near the door.
Rice told police Brenneman said she had cut her finger on a can and he began to search for the can, but he couldn’t find it in the kitchen. Police said Rice suggested it might be in the garbage receptacle outside. Both police and Rice looked in the receptacle and didn’t find the can but found a light blue shirt with what appeared to be blood on it, police said.
According to police, the shirt looked as though it was “soaked in some type of chemical,” and Rice confirmed the shirt was Brenneman’s.
Police said they had been called to the apartment previously on July 22 for a complaint of a fight between Rice and Brenneman.
Hempfield Township police and the district attorney’s office did not release any other information about the homicide investigation Friday.
Kochems said he does not expect to release additional details before Monday.
“We’re in what we call the vacuum cleaner stage,” Kochems said. “We’re trying to collect as much evidence as possible.”
Klaric is a reporter for The (Sharon) Herald, which, like The Meadville Tribune, is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.