Murder of Barbara Rowan by George Shaw investigated on True Conviction

Mugshot of George Shaw
George Shaw was convicted of murdering teenager Barbara Shaw 31 years after he committed the crime. Pic credit: Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections

True Conviction is investigating the 1984 murder of teenage girl Barbara Rowan by George Shaw, who sexually assaulted and suffocated his victim in his apartment in Bensalem, Pennslyvania.

Unfortunately, Shaw managed to evade justice for over 30 years until an accomplice finally came forward, which led to his arrest and imprisonment.

On August 3, 1984, 14-year-old Barbara Rowan was reported missing by her family. Tragically, her badly decomposed remains were discovered 13 days later in a secluded wooded area, less than a mile from her home in Bucks County, PA.

Barbara’s remains were naked from the waist down, and her wrists were tied behind her back with industrial-strength tape. There was also tape on her ankles, nose, and mouth. She had been sexually assaulted and had suffocated to death.

Her murder went unsolved for 31 years until 2015 when Robert Sanders came forward to tell the police that he had been present when Barbara had been murdered.

Sanders explained that he had gone to Shaw’s home so that the pair could get high on methamphetamine. At the house, Shaw told Sanders that Barbara was babysitting his daughter, and he implied that he had given her drugs.

Sanders claims that Shaw then took Barbara into the bedroom. At this point, the girl’s father knocked on the door, demanding to know if his daughter was inside. Shaw lied to him, telling him that she was not in the house. Barbara’s father said he was going to the police and then left the property.

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According to Sanders, Shaw then emerged from the bedroom, saying he had messed up. On entering the bedroom, he saw Barbara’s dead body had been placed in a black garbage bag. They then both took the body “up the road a little bit” and dumped it over a guardrail.

George Shaw and Robert Sanders both arrested in Barbara Rowan murder case

Sanders claimed that he had kept quiet all these years because he was afraid of Shaw. “I was fearing for my life,” he said. “That’s why I never said nothing.”

But after his testimony, both Sanders and Shaw were arrested. Sanders was charged with and eventually pleaded guilty to hindering Shaw’s apprehension by previously giving police bad information. He was sentenced to between 3 and 6 years.

George Shaw maintained his innocence; however, in 2017, he was found guilty in a non-jury trial and was convicted of third-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime, and attempted indecent assault.

He was sentenced to serve 13 to 27 years in prison, which was the maximum sentence allowed in 1984. The same crime today would lead to a 20 to 40-year sentence.

More from True Conviction

Follow the links to read about more murders investigated on True Conviction.

Beatrice Camper was having an affair with convict John Murray, and when he left prison, they hatched a plot to murder her husband, Terry Camper. Murray shot Camper in the back of his head in a taxi cab.

In a particularly unsettling case, teenager Daniel Marsh crept into the home of elderly couple Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin and butchered them to death while in their beds. The self-diagnosed psychopath had chosen them completely at random.

True Conviction airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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