Georgia Man Is Questioned In Harney Death

October 09, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

A 34-year-old tree trimmer charged in the September rape of a Pennsylvania woman is being questioned by police in connection with the discovery of human remains in Harney Sunday morning.

James Howard VanMetre III of Rossville, Ga., was charged by Pennsylvania State Policeand Reading Township Police Monday in the Sept. 15 rape of an East Berlin, Pa., woman.

State police in Westminster are investigating VanMetre in connection with ashes and suspected human bone fragments found on a farm in the 4700 block of Baptist Road.

Police in both states say they believe the remains are those of Holly Haynes Blake, a 28-year-old Bonneauville, Pa., woman who was reported missing Sept. 26 by her estranged husband.

Blake was seen that day getting into a cream-colored Subaru with Tennessee plates registered to VanMetre, said Lt. William Conway, commander of criminal investigations of the state police in Harrisburg, Pa.

Conway said Blake, the mother of two young girls, was seen getting into the car in front of the Distelfink Restaurant in the 2700 block of Old Harrisburg Road.

Blake knew VanMetre from her job at Spangler's Restaurant in Gettysburg.

"They knew each other for less than a week," said Conway. "We believe she got in of her own free will."

Conway said police questioned VanMetre after Blake disappeared, but he told them he dropped Blake off at a Gettysburg convenience store the afternoon of Sept. 26.

VanMetre was picked up Saturday in Chattanooga, Tenn., on a 1987 bench warrant for violatinga protection from abuse order filed by his estranged wife, and was questioned further on Blake's disappearance, Conway said.

Blake waived extradition proceedings and was returned to Pennsylvania Sunday.

Police said they believe VanMetre drove Blake to the Harney farm, where his brother rents a home. A fight ensued and Blake was strangled, said Cpl. Wayne Moffatt of the state police in Westminster.

He said police believe Blake's killer set fire to her body, then scattered the ashes.

The state police crime lab is working to identify the ashes and bone fragments, Moffatt said.

VanMetre was charged Monday with burglary, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, three counts of rape, two counts of involuntary deviant sex and twocounts of simple assault in connection with an attack on a woman wholives near his parents' East Berlin home, said Pennsylvania Trooper Theodore F. Kotula.

Police say they believe VanMetre saw the womanworking in her yard, returned later that night and allegedly abducted her at knifepoint, forced her into a car, drove to a secluded area and attacked her, said Moffatt.

VanMetre was being held late yesterday on $250,000 bond at the Adams County Detention Center on the rape charges.

Moffatt said he and the other investigators working on the case are concerned about physical similarities between the victims and the crime scenes.

Police described VanMetre as a drifter whooften slept in his car.

"What worries us is all the places this guy has been," said Moffatt, who added that other police agencies are looking at whether VanMetre may be a suspect in other attacks. "Thereare a lot of unanswered questions."

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said he will begin extradition proceedings to have VanMetre brought to Carroll County if charges are filed against him in the Holly Blake case.

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