Police mull theories in Forward homicide
Butler Eagle
Written by:
January 21, 2013
Click for larger picture
State Police are seeking help finding a rifle missing from the Forward Township business where the owner, Robert C. Gaurrich, 45, was found fatally shot Jan. 11. The missing .30-30 caliber rifle resembles a Canadian Centennial Winchester, above, manufactured in 1967. Police suspect Gaurrich may have been shot with the rifle. Anyone with information is asked to call the barracks at 724-284-8100.

FORWARD TWP — The shooting death of 45-year-old Robert C. “Bob” Gaurrich at his auto repair shop here remains a mystery.

State police investigators acknowledged they have not settled on any suspects.

“But we have people of interest,” Sgt. Patrick Sarnese said Wednesday.

Police are also struggling to come up with a prevailing motive for the killing.

A number of theories, however, are being kicked around, Sarnese said. He would not elaborate.

But there are other questions, like when Gaurrich was shot and the whereabouts of the gun used in the killing.

“It’s a whodunit,” Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said Tuesday.

Gaurrich about 11 p.m. Jan. 11 was found dead behind his business, Bob’s Truck and Auto Repair Service, on Route 68. An autopsy determined that he died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Police think he may have been fatally shot with a rifle — possibly his own older model .30-30 rifle that he kept at his shop. Shortly before Gaurrich was killed, he had decided to sell the gun.

“He had been showing it to different people,” Sarnese said.

Authorities have been unable to find that missing firearm, which is described as an antique octagon barrel rifle, similar to a flintlock.

Police recovered a .30-30 caliber shell casing on the ground near a door at the east side of the building that houses Gaurrich’s business.

The slug, however, was not found.

“We think it may have struck some metal inside the garage and deteriorated,” Sarnese said.

The investigation has determined that Gaurrich was shot in the center of the 100-foot-long-by-50-foot-wide building. He was hit in the upper chest. The bullet struck his lung and went through his body.

He managed to run out the east side of the door and about 50 yards out the back before collapsing face down into a pile of stones, police said.

“We’re still trying to narrow down when he was shot,” Sarnese said. Investigators have a rather wide time frame — somewhere between 4:30 and 11 p.m.

Neighbors who live in back of the business told police they heard what they believed was a gunshot. But there was no consensus on when they heard what they heard.

“We were told it was anywhere between 4 and 11 p.m.,” Sarnese said.

Investigators have spoken at length to Gaurrich’s live-in girlfriend, Jessica L. Hoover, and her former boyfriend, Bradley McCool, who found the body.

“They have been cooperative,” Sarnese said.

Hoover told police that she drove past the auto body shop about 9 p.m. that Friday and saw the lights on. She stopped and looked for Gaurrich but couldn’t find him.

She drove back to their Brownsdale Road home just a mile away but he wasn’t there either.

A short time later, Hoover drove back to the business, getting there around 9:45 p.m. Police said she called McCool to help her look for Gaurrich

McCool eventually came upon the body and Hoover called 911.

Police obtained search warrants and combed the business and Gaurrich’s home, for which Hoover holds the mortgage, according to court records.

Investigators have also interviewed Beth Ann Gartner, Gaurrich’s estranged common-law wife since 1990. The two were in the process of finalizing their divorce when he was killed.

Numerous other interviews have been conducted with friends and acquaintances of Gaurrich and those who knew him best, police said.

Sarnese, meanwhile, said police have been reviewing personal and financial records of Gaurrich, hunting for clues that could help their investigation.

“It appears that Bob’s life, financially and business-wise, had declined in the last two years,” Sarnese said. “It didn’t look like he was doing much business since then.”