The following is part of a weekly series on unsolved homicides and suspected homicide cases in Fayette County and the surrounding area.
Crystal Murphy and Brian Metheny still have nightmares.
Nearly 20 years ago, their mother, Laurie Lynn Caric, was gunned down outside her Hopwood home on Halloween. Murphy was home at the time. Metheny was at his aunt’s house. Both said they remember the night vividly, and both are still trying to cope with the inexplicable loss of their only caregiver.
“I have problems with it. I still have my dreams. I call them dreams rather than nightmares. They are clear. It’s always there,” Murphy said.
“I still have nightmares about it. I dream about the man I think shot her. I just want it to come to an end,” Metheny said.
And while the siblings are each trying to cope with the loss two decades later, the similarities regarding how they have tried to make sense of Caric’s slaying end with the nightmares.
Horror on Halloween
Caric, 32, was killed by a single shotgun blast that struck her upper chest outside her apartment on Monroe Street in Hopwood on Halloween, 1993.
State police Trooper John F. Marshall, who oversees cold case investigations at the state police station in Uniontown, said that Caric and three men had been to a few bars the evening she was killed. He said Caric and the men returned to her apartment around 1:10 a.m., and, as they walked through a passageway and around a corner, someone fired a 12-gauge shotgun. Marshall said the killer fired the shot from less than 75 feet away striking Caric, whom investigators believe was the intended target.
He said the men with Caric only saw a shadowy figure fleeing the scene after the shot rang out, and he said that all three cooperated with police investigation following the shooting and were eliminated as suspects.
Marshall said Caric was able to make it to the enclosed entryway of her apartment before she collapsed and died.
A different take
Murphy was 13 when her mother was killed and was at the apartment where the single mother was raising Murphy and Metheny, then 10.
The night of the slaying, Murphy, who now resides in Fayette County with her husband and two children, said she was supposed to go to her aunt’s house, where her brother was waiting for her to spend the evening, but she did not because she was feeling sick.
She said that Caric offered to stay home rather than go out for Halloween as she had planned, but Murphy told her mother to have fun and said that she would be fine.
“She called and checked on me a couple of times,” Murphy said.
As she was lying on the sofa in her living room watching television, Murphy said she heard someone “messing” with the door. She said the door then flew open and a man barged into the residence, appeared startled to find her there and then asked for a phone.
She then saw that her mother was lying on the porch, another man crouched over her.
“I never heard the gun. I never heard it,” Murphy said, noting that she has never ascribed to the police theory about her mother’s death and is convinced to this day that Caric was shot somewhere else and then dropped onto the porch.
While Marshall said that the three men who accompanied Caric that night have been essentially ruled out as suspects, Murphy isn’t as sure.
She said that she always knew her mother’s friends and that she had never met these men before. She said that when the men and her mother first arrived at the residence that night, there were only two of them, but a third man showed up later after police were summoned.
Murphy said she has done some investigating on her own, discussing the incident with her mother’s friends to try and glean additional information about what might have led to her killing but said she has discovered little.
“I just sat on the couch and looked at her laying there,” Murphy said, noting that she was stuck in the house for sometime before police released her to the care of her grandmother.
Other suspects emerge
Marshall said that the police work that night was fast and furious as investigators saturated the area with patrol troopers to search for a suspect.
He said that officers discovered a spent shotgun shell near the garage where police say the shooting took place, and that, as the days began to turn to weeks, officers interviewed a plethora of possible witnesses and suspects. From those, Marshall said that some still remain suspects.
He said that one suspect in particular, whom he declined to name, had been essentially stalking Caric, who worked as a photo technician at the then-newly opened Walmart in South Union Township, in the months prior to her death.
Marshall theorized that the killer had to know where she lived and when she would be coming and going to commit the crime.
Metheny, who lives in Slatington near Allentown, said that in the years after his mother’s death, he began to vividly remember a man who had developed a crush on his mother pulling a gun on her the year before she was shot and killed.
“He wanted to date her, but she didn’t want anything to do with him,” Metheny said.
He said that as he grew he began to focus his attention on the man whom he still believes is responsible for gunning down his mother.
“I went after him when I was 18,” Metheny said, noting that the man denied killing Caric. Metheny said he was arrested for his interactions with the man.
When he was able to search for the suspect again after spending a few months in jail, Metheny said he was no longer able to find him.
“I still think he did it,” Metheny said.
The real story
Caric’s death has affected her children in very different ways.
Murphy said that in the two decades since her mother’s death she has disengaged more and more from society and now lives a quiet life, raising her children and happy to fly under the radar.
Her mother’s murder has made her weary of strangers and always watching over her shoulder, especially when it comes to her own children.
“I am a very protective mother,” she said, noting that her two children are always monitored and all events and people they are associated with are vetted in advance.
Metheny’s path following his mother’s slaying was a bit different.
He said that in the year’s following Caric’s death, he became inconsolable and uncontrollable, noting that his grandparents eventually moved him into foster care at the age of 12. Over the next decade, Metheny said he was in and out of trouble with the law.
“I gave up on everything. I didn’t know what to do. I lost everything. I never listened to anybody after it happened,” Metheny said.
But after he had his first child in his early 20s, Metheny said he started working to try and do better, for the sake of his children.
Both Metheny and Murphy said that the one thing Caric’s murderer was not able to take from them is the memories of their mother.
“She was fun and nice. All my friends liked her. She was the mom everyone liked,” Murphy said, calling Caric her best friend.
“She was always doing what she had to do to support us and take care of us. I was a mommy’s boy. She did whatever she had to do to take care of us. She was always focused on kids. She was a great mom,” Metheny said.
Still, even with the memories to cling to, both Murphy and Metheny said they long for their mother often.
“I just wish she was there to see me graduate, to see me get married, to see her grandchildren,” Murphy said.
“It is still hard to cope with. Maybe my life would have been different. I know I can’t blame everything on her murder. But I wonder how it would be if she were here,” Metheny said.