The Unsolved Murder of Joline Witt

The Unsolved Murder of Joline Witt

Joline Faye Witt was born to Lindsey and Linda Witt on February 18, 1987. Joline’s parents divorced in 1994, and her father had custody of her and her older siblings, Lindsey Jr, 12, and Cassie, 11. Joline lived with her father and siblings in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Their mother, Linda Longenecker, lived in nearby Muncy and had visitation rights with the children.

On Saturday, July 26, 1997, Joline, 10, visited her mother for the weekend. At the time, Linda lived with her brother, Bruce Longenecker, and his family, including his wife, Christine, and their five children.

Joline went to bed around midnight on July 27. Her cousin, Bruce and Christine’s daughter, slept next to her in the same bed. Christine checked on the girls around 3:00 a.m. and then went to sleep. An hour later, Linda Longenecker’s screams awoke everyone in the house; Joline was not in her bed. The front and back doors to the home were open, and Joline was nowhere to be found.

The Investigation

A quick search for Joline Witt on Sunday and Monday produced no evidence of her whereabouts or who took her. Joline’s father, Lindsey Witt, participated in the search for his daughter. Both he and Linda were not considered suspects in Joline’s disappearance.

The investigative team consisted of 23 full-time investigators from several nearby towns, the FBI, and the Pennsylvania State Police.

The following Tuesday, a helicopter equipped with infrared detectors flew over adjacent fields, and a search dog went through a nearby deserted barn. Late Tuesday, divers searched a section of the Susquehanna River (Raphael, 1997).

Police had zero suspects in the case, and any leads or tips led nowhere.


Discovery

Around 3:30 pm on September 6, 1997, hikers found a badly decomposed body in a densely wooded area along route 554 on Bald Eagle Mountain, about 3–5 miles south of Williamsport.

Williamsport Water Authority owned the land, but hikers and mountain bikers could use it if they registered with the agency.

Four days later, the body was identified as Joline Witt. The autopsy report stated cause of death was homicide by violence. Police said they had a few possible suspects but did not release any further details. More recent reports state Joline was either strangled or smothered.

Meanwhile, Muncy residents began pointing fingers at the Longeneckers.

Family Problems

Linda Longenecker had a protection from abuse order against Joline’s father, Lindsey Witt. He countered with a similar order against Linda after the September 3, 1997 incident.

Around 1:30 a.m on September 3rd, Linda showed up at Lindsey’s Williamsport home and began kicking and pounding on the door. Lindsey woke up and opened the door to Linda, holding a .25 caliber black Beretta and threatening him.

Lindsey grabbed Linda’s wrist, and the two struggled. He then grabbed her throat and held her in a headlock.

Linda responded by saying, “Go ahead and hit me so I can shoot you.”

As police arrived at the house, Lindsey threw the gun over the railing and onto the ground. Police cited Linda with disorderly conduct.

Linda told the police she was upset because she had not seen her two other children. She was supposed to see the kids twice a week.

Lindsey said that after Joline disappeared, the kids were scared, and they did not want to visit their mother.


Bruce Longenecker

Immediately after the recovery of Joline Witt’s body, her uncle, Bruce Longenecker, moved his family to Speculator, New York.

Pennsylvania authorities were going to interview Bruce again regarding Joline’s murder, and he was aware of this.

On November 4, 1997, Bruce shot himself in the head. A family member called an ambulance to the home at 3:32 p.m. When police arrived, they found Bruce lying on his back on the bed, a .38 caliber revolver at his side. An autopsy determined the gunshot wound to his head was self-inflicted.

Authorities said at that time that Bruce’s suicide was not related to Joline Witt’s case; he had been struggling with depression for years.

But Bruce Longenecker had been a suspect from the very beginning. A 1999 Grand Jury hearing revealed that the Longenecker house was locked on the night of Joline’s abduction, and Bruce had gone to bed in his underwear. But when Linda’s screams woke everyone in the house, the entry doors were open, and Bruce was wearing jeans.

There was no sign of forced entry in the home.

Investigators, which included the FBI and Muncy police, learned on numerous times Longenecker had made crude remarks about Joline’s anatomy and had touched her inappropriately. DNA tests linked sperm on the pillow cover on Joline’s bed and material on her comforter to Longenecker (Beauge, 2015).

In 2015, Lycoming County Detective Kenneth L. Mains reviewed the case and believed someone else was responsible for Joline Witt’s murder. Police may have identified the wrong person as the killer. Mains did not provide further details about who he thought killed Joline or what led him to that conclusion.

No one has ever been charged in Joline Witt’s murder. Joline’s father, Lindsey Witt, passed away in 2014. It is unclear what happened to Linda or Joline’s older siblings.

Source:

Raphael, Michael. “Girl’s Mysterious Disappearance Befuddles Search Teams in Muncy.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 30, 1997.
The Unsolved Murder of Joline Witt
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