Christine Guenther had a doctor’s appointment scheduled on the afternoon of Monday, October 26, 1981. She had an ear infection a couple of months earlier and her doctor had asked her to come in for a routine checkup so he could make sure her ear was completely healed. The 15-year-old walked to the bus stop at Donaldson’s Crossroads & Route 19 in Peters Township, Pennsylvania, intending to catch the bus to her doctor’s office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of her friends drove by the bus stop around 1:00 pm and saw Christine standing there; she waved at her as she drove past. What happened to Christine after that was a mystery; she didn’t get on the bus and she never made it to her doctor’s appointment.
Christine’s parents reported her missing later that afternoon when she failed to return home to attend a football game with them as planned. Her father, Harry Guenther, told investigators that Christine had no history of running away from home and it was unlike her to go anywhere without letting her parents know. She was a sophomore at Peters Township High School, where she got good grades and was a member of the school’s tennis team. She considered her mother one of her best friends and told her everything. She wasn’t the type of teenager anyone expected to vanish.
Harry last spoke to his daughter on Monday morning, when he reminded her that they had tickets to go to a Pittsburgh Steelers game that night. She was looking forward to going and he didn’t believe she would have willingly missed the game. She wasn’t dating anyone at the time and none of her friends had any idea where she might have gone.
It seemed unlikely that Christine had run away from home. All of her belongings were left behind and she only had $5.00 in cash with her when she disappeared. She hadn’t said anything to her friends about wanting to leave home and none of them believed that she would have done so. Her best friend, Chrissy Patrizio, told reporters, “She would have told me…she tells me everything…she’s not that kind of girl.”
Chrissy was supposed to go to the Steelers game with Christine and her family. Christine told her she would call her when she got home from her doctor’s appointment; when the call never came, Chrissy knew something was wrong. Neighbors agreed that Christine was a happy teenager who never would have run away from home. They all feared that something had happened to her while she was waiting for the bus.
Christine’s doctor’s appointment had originally been scheduled for October 23, 1981, and her mother planned to drive her into town that day. She had recently started a new medication, however, and the doctor wanted to give it more time to see if it was working before he saw Christine, so her appointment was pushed back. Her mother had been unable to drive her on the new date so agreed to let Christine take the bus. It was a decision she now regretted.
On Saturday, October 31, 1981, the search for Christine came to a heartbreaking end when a hunter found her body in a wooded area of South Fayette Township, Pennsylvania, around six miles from where she was last seen. She was fully clothed and covered with leaves. A spokesperson for the coroner’s office said that it appeared the body was in the woods for a couple of days before it was discovered.
County Coroner Sanford Edberg conducted a preliminary examination of the body at the scene and said Christine had suffered a penetrating injury to the back of her head, resulting in “extensive fracturing of her skull.” She also had circular burns on her wrist that could have been made by a lit cigarette. He believed Christine had been ki*lled elsewhere and then dumped in the woods, as there was very little blood in the area where she was found.
Coroner Edberg performed an autopsy on Christine the day after her body was found. He determined that her kil*ler had attacked her with a small ax, hatchet, or meat cleaver, which had penetrated her skull and left multiple chop marks in her brain. Although she vanished on Monday, Edberg was certain she wasn’t ki*lled until later in the week, indicating her k*iller had kept her alive for several days. “I believe she was de*ad no more than one or two days before her body was found.”
Edberg found no evidence of se*xual as*sault, and initial toxicology reports showed no signs of alcohol in Christine’s system; investigators were still waiting on the results of additional tests to determine if there were any drugs in her bloodstream. Later, they stated that it didn’t appear Christine had been drugged before she was k*illed.
As detectives retraced Christine’s steps on the day she went missing, they learned that she had been seen waiting at the incorrect bus stop that afternoon. She was waiting at the stop for the Route 19 bus, which wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 3:15 pm. The bus she needed to catch stopped at an intersection across the street from where Christine was standing. After waiting for a while, Christine checked with people at a neighboring business and was given directions to the correct intersection, but by then the bus had already come and gone. The driver recalled picking up two older women at that stop but no teenagers.
Allegheny County Homicide Detective Charles Mosser spoke with seven or eight people who recalled seeing Christine at the bus stop. “They all said they momentarily turned away and when they looked back, she was gone.” Detectives believed she likely ended up getting into a car with someone who offered her a ride.
Christine’s friends were adamant that she never would have accepted a ride from someone she didn’t know, and none of the witnesses who saw the teenager at the bus stop recalled seeing her talking to anyone. A woman who lived across the street from the bus stop saw Christine standing in the rain and went to grab an umbrella to offer her, but by the time she found it and headed out the front door, Christine was gone.
Detective Mosser believed someone must have seen something. “Someone probably saw her getting into a vehicle of some kind…somebody probably saw it happening but made no particular note of it.”
Detectives interviewed all of Christine’s relatives, friends, and classmates; they also spoke with school officials and were in the process of interviewing everyone who had been reported absent from school on the day Christine went missing.
John Shafer, the principal of Peters Township High School said that Christine was a friendly, well-liked teenager who was taking college preparatory classes. The school’s guidance counselor, Alice Stitzer, noted that Christine’s de*ath had affected the entire school. “There’s a great deal of feeling out in the halls. They’re stricken…I’ve even seen teachers with tears in their eyes.”
Detectives canvassed the neighborhoods near where Christine’s body was found in the hopes that someone might recall seeing something suspicious, but no one was able to provide any useful information. They also combed through the wooded area with metal detectors to make sure they hadn’t missed any potential evidence.
Due to the remoteness of the area where Christine’s body was found, detectives believed that her k*iller was a local who knew the area well. It was possible Christine had been familiar with her k*iller and had willingly accepted a ride with them only to have it turn violent. There were some defense wounds on her body, indicating she had likely fought for her life.
Christine’s father was an assistant to Lloyd McBride, the president of United Steelworkers. Because of this, the FBI conducted its own preliminary investigation to make sure there had been no violations of federal law. Detective Mosser noted, “I don’t think they’ve found anything to support their involvement so I believe they’re getting out, but I would be happy if they decided to stay involved.
Christine’s funeral was held on November 2, 1981. More than 800 people — many of them Christine’s friends and classmates — crowded into St. Benedict Church in McMurray, Pennsylvania to say goodbye to the teenager.
On November 5, 1981, Peters Township Police Chief Robert Clark announced that a reward fund was being established so they could offer a monetary reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Christine’s ki*ller. Anyone who wanted to donate to the fund was encouraged to send a check to the Washington Federal Savings and Loan in McMurray. More than 70 people donated to the fund over the next few days. Chief Clark admitted that detectives hadn’t been able to develop any solid leads in the case and he hoped that the reward announcement would bring in some new tips.
The same day the reward fund was announced, a 14-year-old girl in Clairton, Pennsylvania went missing while on her way to a school pep rally. Toni Lynn McNatt, a ninth-grader at Clairton High School, had no history of running away from home and her parents feared she had been a victim of foul play. Although detectives said they didn’t believe the two cases were linked, Clairton was only 13 miles from Peters Township and residents feared a child predator was on the loose.
The holidays came and went without any progress on Christine’s case. In January 1982, employees of the United Steelworkers of America international office announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Christine’s k*iller. Christine’s mother, Carmen Guenther, said her family had been overwhelmed by the support of their friends and co-workers and they were grateful for all their help.
At a press conference held to announce the reward, USW International Secretary Lynn Williams stated, “All USW employees are shocked and distraught that people as gentle and kind and civilized as the Guenthers should have this terrible thing happen to them.” In addition to contributing to the reward fund, employees also covered the cost of printing 10,000 flyers to advertise the reward.
Detective Mosser admitted that investigators hadn’t been able to develop any solid leads in the case. “At least several hundred people were interviewed…we believe someone at the corner may have seen her talking to someone and dismissed it from their mind.” He hoped by keeping the case in the public eye, someone would remember seeing Christine and be able to provide detectives with fresh information.
Five months after Christine was k*illed, her classmates accompanied members of the United Steelworkers of America on a march from Peters Township High School to the bus stop where Christine was last seen. They planned to distribute reward flyers to passing motorists to announce that the reward for information was being raised to $25,000.
The flyers included a description of the clothing Christine was wearing when she was last seen standing at the bus stop and appealed to anyone who had been in the area that day to think back and see if they could recall anything. “Were you shopping here…or perhaps driving by…or even walking or waiting near here? If you were, the police would like to speak to you. You may have seen or heard something — anything- and passed it off as insignificant. But your recollection, your scrap of information…may be what police need to catch the ki*ller of this young woman.”
Detective Mosser told reporters that investigators were out of leads to follow and he was hopeful that the increased reward might bring in some new tips. Although some calls had been received after the $10,000 reward was announced, Detective Mosser said they were mostly “nut calls” and hadn’t helped advance the investigation.
In July 1982, reporters asked Harry and Carmen Guenther what they would say if they had the chance to speak to the person who ki*lled their daughter. Harry said he wouldn’t say anything. Carmen admitted that she wanted revenge. “Very possibly I could ki*ll that person. I probably wouldn’t. I probably would just look at him. The only thing I want is my daughter back and I can’t have that.”
The Guenther family moved out of their Peters Township home, opting to buy a house in nearby Pittsburgh. When asked about their reasons for the move, Harry noted, “If you live in the township, you have to shop in the area from which [Christine] disappeared. That’s difficult for my wife.”
Nine months into the investigation, detectives had interviewed more than 500 people. They had spoken with everyone who was associated with Christine and administered several polygraph examinations. While they had some people they considered potential suspects, all had eventually been cleared of suspicion. All s*exual offenders living in the area were interviewed, as were convicts who had recently been released from prison. None could be connected to Christine’s mu*rder.
By the first anniversary of Christine’s mu*rder, the investigation had stalled. More than 600 people had been interviewed and hundreds of potential leads had been followed, but Christine’s trail ended at the bus stop. Detectives had been unable to find any witnesses who saw her talking to anyone or getting into a vehicle. She had simply disappeared.
Allegheny County Sgt. Michael Stowell admitted the case was a baffling one. “We have no solid direction in the case. She was not the kind of person who got into trouble. She wasn’t involved in illegal acts. She had no shady friends. There was no reason for her to be mur*dered.”
Christine’s case soon faded from the headlines and the investigation went cold. Years went by without any movement on the case. Sadly, Harry died in 2002 without ever learning who was responsible for his daughter’s mu*rder, though Carmen continued to hope that the ki*ller would be caught.
As the 30th anniversary of Christine’s m*urder approached, some of her former classmates decided to start a Facebook page about the unsolved crime in the hope of generating public interest. They also created a video about Christine’s life and de*ath. They hoped they could reinvigorate the investigation and bring in some new tips.
As of July 2023, Christine’s mu*rder remains unsolved. Her friends still maintain a website and a Facebook page dedicated to obtaining justice for Christine; they are convinced that there are people in the community who know exactly what happened to the teenager and hope the person responsible for her mu*rder will eventually be arrested and convicted.
Christine loved reading Agatha Christie mystery novels; she had no way of knowing that her d*eath would end up being the greatest mystery of all.
Christine Guenther was just 15 years old when she was abducted and m*urdered in Peters Township, Pennsylvania in October 1981. She was a sweet, somewhat shy teenager who loved skiing, playing tennis, and swimming. Detectives believe someone out there has the information they need to solve Christine’s case and bring her brutal ki*ller to justice. If you have any information on Christine’s mu*rder, please contact the Allegheny County Police Department tip line at 412–473–3000 or the Allegheny County Homicide Unit at 412–473–1300.