Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Allentown Massacres

Unexpected Trouble

The Freeman family massacre had caught the interest of Jeffrey Howorth, 16 (Rosen erroneously spells it "Haworth"). In fact, it had completely captivated him, according to his older brother's report later. He'd watched every news show about the brothers' crime and capture, calling them "dumb" for getting caught. Yet, oddly, he had no affinity for their ideas or their method of aggression. He even deplored racism, and was a member of the swim team at Emmaus High School and an average student. He'd never been in any kind of trouble. In the Morning Call, Susan Todd described Howorth as shy, quite and "good natured," but he clearly stewed in a dark side that few people saw — especially those most in danger. His mother recently had limited the hours she spent on the job because she sensed that her youngest son was having a difficult time. Tragically, she was right.

The Howorths lived about 10 miles from the scene of the Freeman carnage and Jeffrey, too, wished to kill his parents. He had said as much to his older brother, Steven, home during that period from Penn State. What the Freeman brothers had done had apparently encouraged him, and as he ruminated over it, he watched the reports. Although the fugitives were found and arrested by March 1, Howorth had already formed a plan and decided to carry it out. The Freeman brothers' fate was no longer his concern. On the afternoon of March 2, 1995, he loaded a .22 caliber rifle and awaited his father's entrance from the garage into the kitchen. Around 5:00 p.m., when George Howorth, 46, came in, Jeffrey shot him at point-blank range in the stomach, killing him. He then shot him four more times. One bullet hit him in the face, and three others were to the front of his head. The man lay where he fell, still wearing his overcoat and gloves.

When Susan Howorth, 48, came home 15 minutes later, according to Murder in the Family, she saw her husband lying prone and bleeding on the floor. She dropped her purse in shock, unable to comprehend the situation, and Jeffrey took the opportunity to shoot her in the face. Yet she did not die. She managed to absorb the impact and run. She made it to the garage door, but he caught up to her and grabbed her coat. Pulling her back into the dining room while she screamed for him to let her go, he finished her off. According to the pathology report completed by Lehigh Valley hospital pathologist Sarah Funke, Susan was shot nine times, three in the front and six in the back. (Some sources erroneously report that George took nine bullets and Susan five.)

He calmly washed his hands in the sink and then put his rifle, ammunition and camping equipment into his mother's Chevy Lumina. He knew that his brother, Steve, would be coming home soon and he wanted to be gone from the scene. It was only minutes after he left that Steve arrived and discovered the prone bodies of his parents in the home. He also spotted Jeffrey's scribbled note on a desk in his room: "I told you I would do it, Steve. You can't say I didn't warn you."

An all-points bulletin was issued to try to apprehend the boy. Jeffrey had gotten into the family's red Chevrolet Lumina and driven for two days until he ran out of gas, landing off Highway 70 in Callaway County, Missouri, just over an hour west of St. Louis. He had two dollars left, but he had brought over 500 rounds of ammunition, a .22-caliber rifle, and a 12-guage shotgun. After the police found his car, he walked out of the woods nearby and turned himself in. They arrested him and returned him to Allentown for trial. When they asked him how he was, according to Adams, he said simply, "I am bitter."

Items in the home that indicated Jeffrey's state of mind that day included jottings about his frustration with school, his anger over his parents' desire that he attend college, and ideas about murder. One note revealed his affinity with the Freemans. "Those kids in Salisbury Township were cool... They killed their parents." He hoped that a movie would be made about what he had done.


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