Man held for trial in death of longtime missing teen
June 4, 2010 4:15 AM
Robert Daniels was arrested and charged in a cold case homicide of Curtis Eutsey, who disappeared in 1990.
By Sadie Gurman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
They were going to steal a motorcycle.
At least that's what Robert Daniels told Curtis Eutsey.
Mr. Eutsey, then 18 and the boyfriend of Mr. Daniels' sister, then got into Mr. Daniels' Ford Maverick and drove into the woods where Mr. Eutsey would be killed.
That was about 18 years ago, sometime around Thanksgiving.
No one knew what had become of Mr. Eutsey until two men came across his skeletal remains on March 31 in a ravine in Mount Pleasant. Two months later, on May 27, Mr. Daniels was arrested and charged in his death.
A preliminary hearing on Thursday and police reports that were unsealed this week shed new light on Mr. Eutsey's disappearance and his death, although many questions remain.
At the conclusion of the hearing, District Judge Roger Eckels ordered Mr. Daniels, 42, of Greensburg, to stand trial on a single count of homicide.
State Trooper Michael McElfresh testified that Mr. Daniels told police he and a cousin had arranged earlier that night to meet on a remote stretch of Misty Meadows Road in Mount Pleasant.
Mr. Daniels' cousin, Tim Daniels, holding a single-barrel shotgun, said, "You bring him up here. I'll take care of him," Trooper McElfresh testified.
Troopers had questioned him several times between 1998 and 2007, according to his criminal complaint, and each time he denied knowing anything about it. But on May 27, while at the Greensburg state police barracks, Mr. Daniels told troopers he hadn't been honest with them in the past about Mr. Eutsey's disappearance.
Trooper McElfresh testified that Mr. Daniels told him he was present when Mr. Eutsey was shot. It was midnight, but the muzzle flash lit up the darkness so that Mr. Daniels could see that his cousin was the shooter, according to the complaint.
As Robert Daniels ran away, he could hear Mr. Eutsey crying, "Bob, help me, Bob, help me," Trooper McElfresh testified. "He freaked out. It haunted him for years."
Tim Daniels has not been charged, and state police would not say whether they are seeking him or expect other arrests. They said the case remains under investigation.
Beatrice Eutsey testified she last saw her adopted son alive in April 1991, three months before his high school graduation. He had an argument with her husband, Kenneth, and stormed out.
He went to the home of Rae Black, his biological mother, and stayed there for about a month before moving in with the family of his girlfriend at the time, Peggy Daniels. The family, including Robert Daniels, lived in a farmhouse in Mount Pleasant.
Robert Daniels' sister, Peggy, now Peggy Colgan, declined to comment after the hearing.
Curtis Eutsey was born Curtis Rice in 1973, but his mother gave him to the Eutseys when he was just 2 1/2.
When he was in junior high school, a dentist removed his two canine teeth "because it made him look like a vampire," Mrs. Eutsey said. The missing canines were a clue that helped forensic investigators identify the remains found in March off Misty Meadows Road as those of Mr. Eutsey.
Several months after Mr. Eutsey left home, Mrs. Eutsey stopped at a post office and asked for the mailbox number where he had been receiving Social Security checks. A clerk told her she hadn't seen him in a long time. The checks, she said, had been returned.
Mrs. Eutsey eventually reported her son missing on Nov. 26, 1992.
After his disappearance, Mr. Eutsey's biological mother, Ms. Black, sought the help of a West Virginia psychic.
"She's been struggling with it all over the years," said Mr. Eutsey's half-brother, Larry Rice, in a phone interview Thursday.
Ms. Colgan told state police, though, that on the night her boyfriend Mr. Eutsey went missing, he and her brother Robert Daniels left to steal a motor bike, according to the criminal complaint. Only Mr. Daniels returned, muddy.
"Robert then made the comment that he just killed Curtis and put his body in the woods," according to the criminal complaint.
When Ms. Colgan asked him about it later, "Robert told her that he put Curtis on the bus to leave the state to see his brother."
Ms. Colgan's other brother, Jeff Daniels, took Mr. Eutsey's belongings from their home and torched them in a fire pit on their property, she told police, saying that Mr. Eutsey wasn't coming back.
Mr. Daniels did not tell his sister where he put Mr. Eutsey's body, but he did take state troopers there after the body was discovered, Sgt. John Dell testified Thursday.
"He pointed out the location where he parked his car that night," Sgt. Dell said, adding that he guided him to a ravine about 100 feet from where the skeletal remains were discovered.
Robert Daniels' niece, Tracy, called out to him as he was led away in handcuffs. She said he never spoke to her about the crime, and she doesn't know Tim Daniels.
"This happened almost 20 years ago," she said. "Everybody makes mistakes in life and they learn from them."
Public Defender Dante Bertani said his client is illiterate, has an eighth-grade education and was misled by troopers.
"Everything he did was to help solve a problem," Mr. Bertani said. "If [police] have done any investigating whatsoever, it should lead them somewhere else."