Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Allentown Massacres


While many people believed that the three fugitives were on their way to Florida, as they had mentioned, in fact they had taken a different route, going directly west on Interstate 78. A tip from a truck driver who had heard about the murders on the radio gave the police their best lead. He pointed them toward Truck World Motor Inn in Hubbard, Ohio, just over the Pennsylvania/Ohio border, where he had seen three young men who fit that description. They were hard to miss, as large as they were and all with bald heads and tattoos. A videotape from a nearby grocery had caught the image of three boys inside the store. The tape was sent back to Allentown, where outraged relatives gave positive identifications. Some of them, fearing that the boys might come after them as well, were relieved to know they had fled the state, although their grandfather believed that Birdwell had to have been coerced into the brutal incident.

Phone calls made from the motor lodge to a home in Hope, Michigan, 30 miles northwest of Saginaw, pinpointed their likely location. They had fled more than 600 miles away to the home of a skinhead associate, Frank Hesse, whom Bryan had once met at a concert in Detroit. He had welcomed them and they'd kept mum about the murders. They'd gone ice fishing on the day they arrived and when they returned just after 6:00 p.m., they were caught. The FBI had gotten involved, and the Michigan State Police had sent a S.W.A.T. to surround the house. The young men came outside, as commanded, were immediately placed in custody, although Frank was quickly released. He claimed to know nothing about what the others had done. Special Agent John Narvaez told reporters that Bryan and David Freeman, along with Ben Birdwell, had been apprehended.

The Freeman brothers wrongly believed that they would be tried as juveniles, so they had made a plan ahead of time, in the event they were captured, to take the heat for the murders, rather than let Birdwell, an adult, face the death penalty. David, considered a juvenile in Michigan, waived his right to an attorney and quickly offered a statement.


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