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Teen charged with killing mother

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2002

He was a paradox: known to neighbors as the polite boy who liked to garden, known to police as a runaway who carried weapons.

Now, 15-year-old John Frank Gebauer of Fallowfield Township, Washington County, is known to everyone as the boy who allegedly murdered, then sexually assaulted, his adoptive mother.

State police at Belle Vernon early Thursday morning arrested Gebauer of 66 Zippay Road for killing his mother, Alison Logan Gebauer, 47, of the same address.

The ninth-grade student at Charleroi Area High School was charged as an adult with criminal homicide, possession of a firearm by a minor and abuse of a corpse. He was arraigned before Charleroi District Justice Larry W. Hopkins and jailed without bond in the Washington County Prison.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed with the criminal complaint, police allege John Gebauer shot his mother with a .38-caliber handgun sometime between 3 p.m. and midnight Feb. 13, and, after she died, sexually assaulted her.

The crime, which occurred on the Gebauers' 100-acre Brush Run Farm in Fallowfield Township was not discovered until early yesterday morning when Charleroi police stopped John Gebauer at 12:19 a.m. to inform him he was driving without headlights, then pulled him over a short time later for driving erratically on Old Route 71 (State Route 2016).

It was during the second stop that police determined Gebauer's Dodge pickup truck did not have a legal registration plate. Officers also noticed a .22-caliber handgun protruding from a backpack.

When asked why he was out so late and if his parents knew where he was, police said Gebauer told them he was returning from a violin lesson.

Police took Gebauer into custody and transported him to the Charleroi police station, and a search of the vehicle turned up a .38-caliber Beretta, a .22-caliber Colt revolver, a .45-caliber Para Ordinance handgun and a .22-caliber Ruger rifle.

While at the station, police said, Gebauer asked officers what would happen to a minor who commits a murder.

When officers asked the teen why he wanted to know, police said the boy told them, "I murdered my mom; then I raped her."

With that information, Charleroi and Fallowfield Township police went to the Gebauer farm at about 2 a.m. where they found Alison Gebauer's body in a barn behind the farmhouse. She was dead, apparently from a gunshot wound to the head, and her pants had been cut from her body.

State police were then contacted to investigate the murder, and Gebauer was formally arrested.

Alison Gebauer lived on the farm with her husband of about five years, Ed, and the couple had recently opened a farm market on the property called Red Horse Market. It was quickly becoming well-known for its organic foods, including fresh Amish cheeses and homemade sausages.

Ed Gebauer had three daughters from a previous marriage who neighbors said often visited the farm. The couple adopted John Gebauer a year ago, two years after they took the boy in as a foster child.

Police said Ed Gebauer was out of town on a business trip when the murder occurred.

A Zippay Road neighbor, Dorothy Yagodich, knew the Gebauers probably better than anyone. A free-lance writer for the Tribune-Review, she had written several stories about Brush Run Farm and the sheep dog trials Alison Gebauer conducted there every September since 1997.

"I lost a dear friend," Yagodich said, trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears. "She would ride up and down the road and would always wave or stop and talk. We exchanged recipes, and I had them over for dinner. John came here for dinner."

Yagodich described John Gebauer as "almost overly polite."

When he answered the phone, "He'd say, 'Gebauers. This is John. How can I help you?'" Yagodich recalled.

"Alison always spoke so highly of him," Yagodich said. "He's such a nice young man it's hard to fathom. I felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach when I heard what happened."

"I never asked Alison how they came by John because he was such a nice boy," she said. "They looked like a nice family."

Yagodich said Alison Gebauer never mentioned any problems with the boy.

"They just said how well John was getting along," she said. "He was very smart in school. ... I even thought to myself, 'How do you get such a nice young man at this age?'"

Yagodich said she visited Brush Run Farm in September and John Gebauer was raising vegetables in the garden.

The family gave her one of John's squashes, and, at Christmas, she returned the favor with one of her nut rolls.

Charleroi police, on the other hand, saw John Gebauer as a "habitual runaway," according to Chief Ottie Caruso. "We knew him also to carry firearms when he was a runaway."

Caruso said Charleroi officers had picked John Gebauer up after he left home in January and in November.

The chief said, after speaking with the school district's superintendent, that the boy had disciplinary problems at school as well.

Caruso commended his officers for their actions, saying they "could have avoided a major catastrophe" since the boy allegedly was carrying four firearms and a lot of ammunition.

"We don't know what could have happened," Caruso said.

Trooper John Mosser, public information officer at the Belle Vernon station, said yesterday there was "no indication" that John Gebauer had any other plans to use the weapons he had in the vehicle.

Carol Whitmyer, Charleroi Area School District's acting superintendent, said despite the tragedy, school went on as usual yesterday, but counseling was available for students who may have wanted it.

Since Charleroi is a small district, Whitmyer said she was familiar with John Gebauer but would not comment on his student record. She said she didn't know how long he had been a student in the district.

Tenth-grade students Jesse Chipps and Stephen Shuback didn't know John Gebauer, but they said students at the high school were shocked to hear the news.

"That was the last thing we expected to hear today when we got to school," Shuback said.

John Gebauer's attorney, Washington County Deputy Public Defender Tom Cooke, declined to comment on the case after Gebauer's arraignment. The teen is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Feb. 20 at the Washington County Courthouse.

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