The following is part of a weekly series on unsolved homicides and suspected homicide cases in Fayette County and the surrounding area.
When 16-year-old Anna Marie Callahan of McKeesport was not seen by her family the evening before her body was found along railroad tracks in Belle Vernon, no one reported her missing, because “coming and going at all hours” was normal for the teen.
“She was not reported missing and it was not uncommon for her to be out all night,” state police Trooper John F. Marshall said, as he flipped through the files regarding Callahan’s strangulation. “She was seen all over the day before, including at her home by her mother and stepfather.”
On Oct. 15, 1995, a CSX railroad employee spotted Callahan’s body lying against a sapling halfway down a steep embankment to the Monongahela River, about 300 feet from the intersection of Fourth and Water streets.
The girl was fully clothed, with cord binding her wrists and another cord knotted around her throat.
“Her body was dumped there,” Marshall said. “The intention was to try and get the body into river but the tree stopped that from occurring.”
Marshall, who oversees cold case investigations for the state police in Uniontown, said that suspects were immediately developed and that some of those same suspects remain viable today.
“Some of the initial leads and names are the same ones being sought right now,” Marshall said.
He said that there are some minor discrepancies regarding her whereabouts prior to her death, but said that it became clear through their investigation that Callahan “liked to run the streets” and did have an issue with substance abuse.
He said that of the suspects that remain, some are transients that were in the area at that time, others were people she was known to hang out with, and a few of them are registered sex offenders who were also in the area at the time of Callahan’s death.
Marshall said that DNA evidence was collected from Callahan’s clothing and other items.
At that point, the DNA was analyzed and became a part of the FBI laboratory’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. That system combines both forensic science and computer technology to solve violent crimes, police said, by linking federal, state and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically. After it was analyzed, Marshall said a DNA profile was established.
“Now as we interview suspects, we are asking for DNA samples to compare,” Marshall said. “If we are denied, we are seeking search warrants. In some cases we are running surveillance on suspects.”
He said that while the case is considered “cold” because it has not been solved, he thinks the probability of solving the homicide is high and said that the tips and calls regarding Callahan’s death have not dissipated over the years.
“We still get calls on it and tips,” Marshall said.
He said that investigators have profiled Callahan’s killer and that Marshall is confident that the suspect was someone she was familiar with and likely comfortable with, adding that a scenario he thinks is plausible is that someone in Callahan’s life who wanted to take a friendship to a sexual level with her was rejected. But, he said, until the case is solved, the motive will remain unknown.
“We won’t know until we find him, and we will find him through his DNA,” Marshall said.
Anyone with information regarding Callahan’s death is asked to call police at 724-439-7111 .
Additionally, Marshall said Fayette County Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Tips can be made by calling 1-888-404-TIPS.