New effort to solve 1970 murder of Boy Scout stabbed on Chesco campout

Terry Bowers-20042017-0001
Terry Bowers was an 11-year-old Boy Scout who was found fatally stabbed in his sleeping bag on April 26, 1970, while on a Scout camping trip in Chester County.

More than four decades ago, 11-year-old Terry Bowers was stabbed to death while on a Boy Scout camping trip in Chester County.

The Delaware County boy was killed in his green sleeping bag. The case remains a mystery. And now, up to $51,000 in reward money is being offered for information that solves the case.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Police announced a new $25,000 reward being offered by the Boy Scouts of America Chester County Council and the Cradle of Liberty Council for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Terry.

Police said Friday that the victim's family is offering an additional $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers. Separately, the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers group is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Terry had been on a camping trip with Troop 275 from Darby's Blessed Virgin Mary parish. On April 24, 1970, the two dozen boys and six instructors had traveled to St. Basil the Great church, about 30 miles away in Chester County's East Pikeland Township, where they camped on an open field on church grounds — about 200 yards from the church buildings.

In the early hours of April 26, 1970, Terry was stabbed about four or five times while in his sleeping bag, according to news reports. Police at the time said they believed the weapon was a "Boy Scout knife or an ordinary pocket knife with a three-inch blade," the Inquirer reported.

The Inquirer's front page from April 27, 1970, the day after Terry Bowers was killed.


Terry's sister, Maureen, who was 12 when Terry was killed, told the Daily News in 2012: "How did this happen? How does a boy get stabbed to death on the grounds of a Catholic church on a Boy Scout trip and nobody hears anything. The poor little guy came home in a body bag." 

Charles Rogers, head of the Boy Scouts' Chester County Council, said Thursday the $25,000 reward was finalized this week after the State Police said they were reopening the cold case.

"It’s extremely tragic and hopefully, the reward will help somebody come forward," said Rogers, who was an 11-year-old scout in Massachusetts at the time of the 1970 slaying.

"In 50 years with the Scouts, I’ve never heard of a scout murdered on a trip," he said.

Numerous theories have abounded about who killed Terry. After the stabbing, Boy Scouts in Darby Borough were hooked up to polygraph machines and interrogated, the Daily News  reported. Crime-scene investigators drained the pond outside St. Basil and swept the church's property with metal detectors.

Leads turned to dead ends. 

A former scout and convicted rapist, Lawrence Wakely, who served time in state prison, once confessed to killing Terry in retaliation for being kicked out of the Boy Scouts. Wakely, according to documents, was a scout in Spring City, Chester County, around 1958 to 1960. But according to a state police investigator, who has since retired, Wakely had mental issues and did not know answers about the case that only the killer would have known, the Daily News reported. He was dismissed as a suspect.

Anyone with information about Terry's death is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at 610-486-6280 or the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.

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