January 21, 1932: Murder of Norman R. Bechtel Prompts Investigation and Second Murder


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

January 21, 1932: A Philadelphia policeman heard a faint moan as he was patrolling in Germantown and found the battered body of Norman R. Bechtel, age 31, lying under a tree on Wissahickon Avenue. He was taken to the Germantown Hospital where he died without regaining consciousness. He had been stabbed in the chest nine times, the wounds making a perfect circle around his heart. His face and temples were slashed and the back of his head cut open. He was also viciously beaten in the robbery attack. His watch and wallet, containing a large amount of money were missing, but an envelope with $17 in his pocket had evidently been overlooked by the attacker. Officials investigating the murder declared that it was one of the most baffling they had seen in a number of years.

Bechtel was employed in Philadelphia as an accountant for E.K.Schultz and Company and also volunteered as a Mennonite church worker. His funeral service at the Hereford Mennonite Church in Bally was attended by more than 500 people. The church was so crowded that the pulpit and amplifiers placed outside the church carried the voices of the choir and ministers to the throng of friends who had assembled to pay their respects to the murdered man. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Samual Bechtel, who ran a general store in Congo.

In a later development, Philadelphia detective Michael Kroskey, who was investigating Bechtel’s murder and had remarked that the trail was “getting hot,” was believed to be on the point of solving the mystery when he was found dead in his garage, stabbed in the back without a struggle, without a warning, and apparently without seeing his cowardly murderer, who thus obliterated whatever knowledge Kroskey had gained. The combined resources of the Philadelphia Police Department were then plunged into a search to find the double murderer.

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