A murderer wrote poetry for biker magazines. It could be key to solving a 47-year-old cold case.
He left a note saying he skipped town to clear his head, but Sharon Via knew her husband had run off with the go-go dancer.
Larry Via was a wannabe musician stuck working at a molding company. He'd been hanging around the Cleveland bars more often lately, trying to sell his amateur poetry as lyrics to rock bands coming through town that spring of 1972. But, Sharon told the Akron Beacon Journal that year, "I guess that's where he met Charmaine."
He left Sharon in the middle of the night on May 11, 1972, and hopped in Charmaine's 1968 Cadillac Deville, the beginning of a summer of mayhem that would span three states. The pair stopped at a bar in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Charmaine bought a gun for $50 (Dh183.65).
By the end of the summer, two people would be dead. A third, a gas station attendant, would miraculously survive a bullet to the head - living to identify his attackers to police as they tracked down Via and Charmaine. Via alone went to prison for life for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman who picked him up on the side of the road, while Charmaine was convicted of assisting in other robberies.
But it would take police 47 years to connect Via to the second murder victim. The help came in an unusual form. As Via sat in prison, he kept trying his hand at poetry. This time, he found a buyer: Outlaw Biker and Easyriders magazines. To police today, his stories sounded a lot closer to the facts of an actual crime than the racy fiction that the '80s pornographic magazines claimed them to be.
Now, after decades of a cold investigation, the outlaw poetry is evidence against Via in the killing of 29-year-old Morgan Peters the final piece of the 1972 crime rampage that wreaked havoc on dark US highways. Still in prison for the 19-year-old's murder, the now-75-year-old Via has been indicted on first- and second-degree murder charges in Peters' death, the Franklin County District Attorney's Office in Pennsylvania announced Friday.
An attorney for Via could not be immediately located.
Sharon Via always remembered her then-husband, whom she called Jody, as a bookworm. It was part of the reason that when she found out he was wanted for the murder of a 19-year-old Ohio University student and for a nearly fatal armed robbery in 1972, she didn't think the charges jibed with his character. She said Jody "kept swearing he didn't do it," and at the time, Sharon believed him.
"Jody is a quiet person," she told the Beacon Journal then. "He loved to read - travel books and Hemingway. . . . My first husband was just the opposite, drinking and fighting. You might expect this of him. But not Jody."
Four decades later, Via's two ex-wives would lead police to the magazines that published at least nine pieces he wrote in the 1980s under the name "Jody Via" - stories that now appear to describe three fatal or near-fatal crimes, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The magazines are the kind you might pick up in a grimy pool hall bathroom, promising "bikes, broads and boogie," as well as "big ones, little ones and everything in between straight from the female chests of America," at least inside Outlaw Biker in 1985. Wedged between those pages was Jody Via's byline - for example, beneath the story "Payback in Full."
It involved a woman tying up a crime victim, according to the affidavit. And her actions, in the eyes of police today, sounded all too similar to those of Via's partner in crime in the summer of 1972: Charmaine Bouvar, now Phillips.
Harvey Hoffman couldn't forget their faces. On the night of Sept. 4, 1972, he saw them pulled over on the side of an Ohio highway, each with long blond hair, and he got out to see what was wrong. The man, Via, said they were out of gas.
"I told him: 'You stopped the right guy. I own a gas station,' " Hoffman recalled to the Beacon Journal that year. Hoffman told them to get in his car and he'd take them there.
"I invited them inside and made us all coffee," Hoffman said. "That's when he said he really wasn't there for the gas. He was here for the money."
Via pulled out a gun - the little pistol Charmaine bought in Bowling Green - and Hoffman immediately handed over the cash, $62 in all. Then, Hoffman recalled, "He said he needed my car keys, and that he had to tie me up in the backroom."
Charmaine did the tying. Via told him to lie down on the ground.
"I wasn't worried until he told me to turn my head to the wall," Hoffman said. "He said, 'So long,' and I said, 'Goodbye.' There was a long pause. Then he shot me."
Police arrived to find Hoffman pacing around the store with a bullet in his head.
Another biker story was titled "Moonlit Ride," an alleged piece of fiction that police now believe echoes the murder of 19-year-old Jane Maguire.
In that real-life case, Via posed as a hitchhiker on the side of an Ohio highway. Maguire picked him up on Sept. 20. Two days later, she was found dead at an Ohio highway rest stop, bound with her boot laces and shot twice in the back of the head and once in the back. The bullets matched the one pulled from Hoffman, who had already identified Via as the trigger man in his case.
After going on the run, Via was arrested in November 1972 at his wife's house. He was found with two wallets and a little portable Panasonic radio in his suitcase. One wallet was his own. The other one, containing a business card for a shop near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, was possibly Peters's, police now believe.
That's where the third piece of biker poetry enters the record.
As Via sat in prison for Maguire's murder, he wrote the poem "DANGEROUS DAVE" for the September 1985 issue of Outlaw Biker. It's about a "hitchhiker cutie" who baits a nice man into pulling over on the side of the road, only to be ambushed by an armed man hiding in the tree line, according to the affidavit. Like the others, it sounds a lot like the type of thing that could have happened to the 29-year-old wrestling mat salesman in the summer of '72, police now believe.
It was about 2am when Peters encountered a car pulled over on the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He was on a business trip, headed to New York to install gym equipment, according to the Allentown Morning Call archives. But he would never make it. His body was discovered 18 miles from his pickup truck. Police found he was missing his wallet - and a little portable Panasonic radio.
When the Pennsylvania State Police reopened the investigation into Peters's death in 2009, they asked Charmaine if she could remember traveling with Via along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where Peters was found dead. She said yes.
She told them about their "ruse" that summer, how they'd pull over on the side of the road, pretending to be out of gas or needing to hitch a ride, and wait for an unsuspecting good Samaritan to pull up behind them offering to help. She couldn't remember how many times they did it, according to the affidavit, but there was always one incident that stood out in her mind in September 1972.
She and Via were driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in her Cadillac with her two poodles late at night when Via told her to pull over. They were in "the middle of nowhere," she said. They sat there until a vehicle pulled up behind them.
The man got out, and so did Via.
Charmaine told police she didn't know what happened during the encounter. She couldn't recall hearing any gunshots, she said. All she remembered was Via running back to the car and saying, "We got to go!" Via then got in the victim's truck, and they each drove separately, Charmaine told police.
She drove back Cleveland. Via allegedly abandoned the truck somewhere on the turnpike.
Two days later, he hitched a ride with a young Ohio University student.