SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. – Police arrested a man Thursday in the 1985 killing of a 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy, who apparently was killed over stolen marijuana plants.
Joseph Geiger, 43, was charged with murder in the death of David Reed, of Schuylkill Haven. Geiger, of nearby Pottsville, was arrested on the 23rd anniversary of Reed's disappearance.
"We got him," said state police Sgt. Craig Stine, commander of the Schuylkill Haven barracks.
State police, in a 13-page affidavit, made a startling revelation: Reed was not simply a boy out for a bicycle ride who vanished one summer night. He was a pot-smoker whom Geiger believed was stealing his marijuana plants.
In interviews, Geiger gave changing stories, but police believe he confronted the boy about the missing marijuana plants after they went into a parked caboose to smoke pot. Geiger, who was 20 at the time, punched Reed in the face, causing Reed to fall backward into a metal wall and possibly cracking the back of his skull, police believe.
Geiger was arrested by state police as he left his home. He was arraigned Thursday afternoon on charges of third-degree murder and related counts.
On his way into court Geiger said, "I didn't do it."
Geiger, who is unemployed, held his head in hands and squeezed his eyes shut as he sat at the defense table. He said he couldn't afford a lawyer.
Until recently, Reed's death had been classified as "undetermined," but officials ruled in early July that it was a homicide after studying his remains.
State police exhumed the body in January after turning up new evidence that led them to conclude the brown-haired, blue-eyed teen was a victim of foul play. Reed's family had welcomed the renewed attention, saying the original investigation was inadequate, and said Thursday that they were pleased an arrest had finally been made.
"I think it's long overdue and I'm glad they finally found whoever did this ... so that my nephew can finally be resting in peace," said his aunt, Judy Adams, who lives nearby.
Reed's badly decomposed remains were found in a remote thicket on the edge of town in December 1985, about a half-mile from his bicycle.
Although police labeled the death suspicious, their investigation stalled after an inconclusive autopsy.
The boy's remains were examined this year by Dr. Anthony Falsetti, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida, who spent about a month analyzing them. Two anthropologists who had initially theorized the boy might have succumbed to an undiagnosed case of diabetes now concur with Falsetti's findings, the coroner said.
Reed's father died when he was a toddler, and his mother died in 2001. A sister who encouraged police to pursue the case, Virginia Meadows, died last year.
"The feeling is hard to describe. After all these years, I never thought it would come down to this. You give up hope," said David's brother, Joseph Reed, of Fort Myers, Fla.
Reed said he was barely acquainted with Geiger but that he had been considered "pretty normal" around Schuylkill Haven, a small town about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
In the months after Reed's disappearance, Reed said, Geiger "would say 'Hi,' like nothing happened. I wish I knew back then what I know today."