The Christine Guenther Murder

In 1981, a small Western Pennsylvania suburb mourned the loss of a 15-year-old girl. Thirty years later, her peers speak up, insisting on justice. Learn more about this promising young woman, and help us finally put this mystery to rest.

Almanac Article 10/26/2011

Quest for answers into '81 killing of Peters girl continues 

By Terri T. Johnson

Almanac staff writer

tjohnson@thealmanac.net

Fifteen-year-old Christine Guenther disappeared from a bus stop in Peters Township 30 years ago. Five days later, her beaten body was found covered in brush in a rural area of South Fayette Township.

Her killer was never caught and the case remains open.

Thirty years later, a group of Chris' friends remain close and, in an effort to solve the murder and to convict her killer, banded together to form the Friends of Chris Guenther.

Chris was a junior at Peters Township High School when she left a chemistry class at about 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 26, 1981, to catch a bus for a doctor's appointment in Pittsburgh.

Then, she simply vanished.

A website and a Facebook page are both dedicated to Chris. To remember the 30th anniversary of her disappearance and death, Friends of Chris Guenther have planned a memorial weekend, beginning with a Mass at St. Benedict the Abbot Church in McMurray. The Mass begins at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, there will be a quiet graveside memorial beginning at 11:30 a.m. where Chris is buried in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in McMurray.

Between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, the group will unveil an electronic billboard message and hold a vigil at the intersection of Valley Brook and Washington roads.

The last time anyone remembers seeing Chris was at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 26,1981. Her body was found at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 31, 1981.

Christine Patrizio Wallace was Chris' best friend.

"We were friends for as long as she and I could remember," Wallace said from her home out of state. "We met, I believe the story goes, up at the (Woodland Hills) pool through our mothers. We were just friends forever."

The last time she recalls seeing Chris was at the front door of the high school on Oct. 26, 1981, the day her best friend disappeared.

"She was leaving and said she would call me about the Steeler game that night. Instead, I got a phone call from her mother to ask if she was with me," Wallace said.

The next few days were anxious for Wallace and Chris' other friends.

"I knew something was wrong, but I just felt it was going to work out, of course it was going to work out. There was going to be a completely reasonable explanation and she would come home," Wallace said.

Then a hunter discovered her body.

"I went into a bit of shock. It couldn't be real. It's nothing you can understand," Wallace said. "You ask yourself why and you want an answer to why, but even if they do, and hopefully whoever or multiple people responsible come forward, I don't think that will ever give me the answer I want."

Diane Hartman Postrech, a native of Peters Township who currently lives in Canonsburg, is active in the group.

"I remember when she went missing," Postrech said of Chris, who was two years younger than Postrech. "She was so close to my age and over the course of all these years, it never left my mind. I always wondered about her."

Peters Township police Chief Harry Fruecht said the case remains open through the Allegheny County Police. Any new information will be investigated.

Chris was last seen in Peters Township, Washington County, however, her body was discovered in South Fayette Township, which is in Allegheny County. Police have been unable to establish where she was murdered.

Fruecht said he was not the chief at the time of her murder, but in his 24 years as chief, every legitimate tip was investigated. He called two tips credible. However, neither led to a suspect.

"We just hope whomever has done this to her is found and punished," Postrech said.

For Postrech, Wallace and others in the group, memories don't fade.

"Nothing ever happened like that in Peters," Postrech said. "I remember everything about that. She was so close to my age and over the course of these years, it never left my mind."

Wallace agreed and said she hopes the message on the billboard will result in someone stepping forward.

"I'm hoping that by looking at the billboard, someone will remember, but people don't like to remember bad things happen in good places. Seeing that billboard and learning about what happened and remembering what happened to Chris, that it will make their children and grandchildren safer. Bad things can happen in good places," Wallace said. "If her memory can serve a purpose to protect another child, she would like that."

The billboard has been rented for the month of November and contains information about the murder and a tip-line telephone number. A photograph from the Peters Township yearbook will be displayed.

"It looked the most like she did the day she disappeared," Wallace said.

Chris was the daughter of Harry and Carmen Guenther and lived at 345 Bellwalt Drive, McMurray. Within several months of the murder, the family moved to Pittsburgh.

"This person had 30 years of freedom and getting to see their own children and grandchildren, getting to have all those things and this was a 15-year-old girl who never got to experience that," Postrech said.

Each year Postrech plants flowers on Chris' grave.

"She was a 15-year-old girl and she will always be a 15-year-old. She needs protection and justice," Postrech said.

Wallace wants justice as well.

"She just kind of vanished, and we all know little girls don't vanish on Route 19 in the middle of the day."