This York County murder might never be solved

YORK, Pa. (AP) — In November 1972, on a desolate stretch of road in southern York County, Anne Elder had a chance encounter with the Isaacs brothers, Carl and Billy.

Two months later, Elder was murdered, shot-gunned to death in her bedroom. No murder weapon was found. No physical evidence conclusively linked anyone to the homicide.

Carl Isaacs, however, had just escaped from jail. And he and Billy and two others had set off on what would become a multi-state killing spree. Their roles in the murders of a Maryland man and a family of six in Georgia were proven.

The state of Georgia executed Carl in 2003. Billy served time in Georgia and Maryland.

Police feel confident that Carl Isaacs killed Elder, but they could never prove that. And so, 44 years later, police have no hope of officially closing the case unless new evidence arises or new witnesses come forth.

If ever the term cold case applied to a murder investigation, this seems to be it.

‘More than likely,’ he did it

At the request of the York Daily Record, Trooper Scott Denisch recently reviewed the Anne Elder murder file.

Denisch oversees unsolved crimes for Pennsylvania State Police. He explained that cold cases are not closed if the murder suspect is dead and there was not enough evidence to bring charges when the suspect was alive.

And that is the status of the Elder case, he said.

“More than likely, Mr. Isaacs is responsible for Anne Elder’s murder, but that is not conclusive,” Denisch said.

Despite investigators’ opinions, he said, “there is no physical evidence linking Carl to the case.”

The theory then and now is that Isaacs, who was 19 at the time, blamed Elder for his arrest in a string of burglaries soon after he met her in 1972. The murder, it is believed, was revenge.

Denisch said Trooper Mike Bonjo, the original investigator, “did a good job. He was thorough.” Now retired from the state police, Bonjo declined to be interviewed.

The encounter

The Isaacs brothers, who in their younger years lived in the Fairview Township area, had been burglarizing rural homes when they ran their car into a ditch near Elder’s house on Blue Ball Road, about a 10-minute back-roads drive to anywhere, according to archived York County state police reports.

Elder, 58, gave the teens a lift into Stewartstown, the nearest burg with any sizeable population, to get a tow truck.

In the meantime, someone stumbled across the Isaacs brothers’ car. Police investigated and found stolen property from four or five homes in the back.

Carl was arrested, and Billy, who was 15, was sent home to his mother in Baltimore.

Elder was among a handful of people subpoenaed to testify against Carl before a magistrate in district court.

Elder did not have to testify because Carl pleaded guilty and was sent to a rehabilitation facility in Harrisburg.

Carl walked away from that facility on Jan. 14, 1973. Eight days later, Elder was found murdered.

Police in Maryland picked Carl up in February 1973. He was jailed in another minimum security facility in Maryland.

Pennsylvania State Police questioned him about the Elder murder and he denied any knowledge or involvement. He told troopers that after he left the Harrisburg facility, a man he knew picked him up while he was hitchhiking south and gave him a ride to Towson.