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 11/2/2011

Group hopes billboard helps solve teen's murder 

By Terri T. Johnson Almanac staff writer

Just a few miles north of where 15-year-old Christine Guenther was last seen in Peters Township 30 years ago is a constantly changing electronic billboard with her picture, information about her murder and a 24-hour tip line.

A group of Chris' friends, family members and former classmates launched a website about a year ago and held a remembrance weekend Oct. 29 that culminated with the unveiling of the billboard at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 31, the exact time and date of when Chris' body was discovered in 1981.

"They did a good job." said Chris's mother, Carmen Guenther Mader, about the group, Friends of Christine Guenther, as she gazed at the larger-than-life photo of her daughter.

Justice, Mader said, is what she hopes comes from the renewed interest in her daughter's murder.

Chris left Peters Township High School on East McMurray Road, shortly before 12:30 p.m. Oct. 26, 1981, Her plans were to catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a doctor's appointment and she was last seen near a Washington Road convenience store at Donaldsons Crossroads. Five days later, her body was found along a rural road in South Fayette Township, Allegheny County.

The significance of 12:30 p.m. Monday was not lost on the group of more than 30 people who gathered in a small parking lot at the intersection of Valley Brook and Washington roads to unveil a six-section electronic billboard.

While Chris was last seen in Peters Township, Washington County, her body was found in Allegheny County and the homicide falls under the jurisdiction of Allegheny County.

Regis Kelly, now a special agent with the state Attorney General's office, was the Allegheny County detective who investigated Chris' death. He attended the small remembrance Monday, along with James Morton, assistant superintendent of Allegheny County Police.

Kelly said although he no longer has jurisdiction with the county police, he was asked to review his files as the 30th anniversary of Chris' death approached. The case is not considered a cold case, but as Morton said, "All cases are active. Any unsolved case is active."

Morton said any information is helpful including data on the group's website from any tips resulting from the billboard.

Money to have the information displayed for the month of November on the billboard comes from former classmates, according to Chris Wallace, who traveled from her Florida home for the weekend. She was Chris Guenther's best friend and one of the last people to speak with her 30 years ago.

Chris' first cousin, Nicole Mayor, traveled from Dallas for the memorial weekend.

"I promised my grandmother I'd do this," Mayor said as she stood near the constantly changing billboard that displayed Chris' yearbook photograph. Mayor's grandmother, Theresa Mayor, who was also Chris' grandmother, died in 2005, but always vowed she would know who murdered her granddaughter. Nicole Mayor has taken on that vow.

Carol McCowan is Chris' aunt and Mader's sister. She traveled from Florida to support her sister and the other Friends of Christine Guenther and said, like her late mother, she wants nothing more than to bring Chris' killer to justice.

The group attended a Mass on Oct. 29 and held a graveside service in Queen of Heaven Cemetery on Oct. 30.

In the past 30 years, Mader lost her daughter and was widowed. She remarried and moved away, but the memory of what happened to her young daughter never really goes away.

"You think it's going to get easier, but then it's her birthday or Mother's Day," Mader said as her voice faded.

Wallace said the group has not thought past the weekend events. The hope is, with the billboard, new information will surface and the case will finally be solved.

The 24-hour Allegheny County Police tip line is 412-473-3000.