Saturday, August 1, 2015

A clue hidden in a lost locker?

What, if anything, did John Gilbride squirrel away in his work locker? And why didn't investigators try harder to find it?

A clue hidden in a lost locker?

Zack and John Gilbride
Zack and John Gilbride

After revisiting the 10-year-old murder of ex-MOVE supporter John Gilbride Sunday and today, I offer a final mini-mystery concerning a work locker which may have contained leads for investigators hunting his killer.

John was a 34-year-old USAirways baggage supervisor when he was gunned down in Maple Shade in September, 2002. He died in the midst of a bitter custody fight with his ex-wife, MOVE matriarch Alberta Africa.

Months earlier, John told family and friends that he had a notebook filled with sensitive information the cult wouldn't want exposed. "An ace up his sleeve," his father, Jack Gilbride recalls.

Shortly after the murder, a USAirways coworker tells me he met a K-9 officer on a long layover at the airport with his champion bloodhound. The two men got to talking and the airport worker mentioned John's locker -- unmarked, lost among hundreds around the facility.

The airport worker asked whether the dog could sniff out a single locker. The handler said yes, if the tracker had a piece of John's clothing to register a scent.

Luckily, the airline still had a set of John's rain gear.

"Someone called me from the airport," Jack Gilbride confirms . "They said, 'There's a guy out here and he's willing to search the lockers."

USAirways contacted Philadelphia Police, who said the search would need to be approved by the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, which refused. Jack Gilbride also reached out to his contacts handling the homicide investigation, only to be rebuffed.

"They said, 'Jack, don't bother. It's not necessary."

Gilbride suspected a jurisdictional concern, but never learned why investigators balked or if they later sent a dog of their own. I asked, but Prosecutor Robert Bernardi has long refused my requests for information and interviews.

What is known? Some time later, the airline removed the employee lockers. If John had squirreled a notebook away for safe keeping, it likely wound up lost forever in the trash.

-- Monica Yant Kinney

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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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