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Slippery Rock kidnapping from 1968 the subject of book

Todd Bromley unearthed police and court documents on the 1968 kidnapping of four young adults from outside a Slippery Rock restaurant. The resulting book, “Depravity in the Darkness,” is available on Amazon. Submitted photo

Author Todd Bromley, a lifelong resident of Stoneboro, Mercer County, was not yet 3 years old when a heinous, multiple-victim crime involving two Slippery Rock College students occurred in 1968.

Because of its twisted nature, the crime remained a subject of whispers and rumors in Mercer County for decades, particularly in Bromley’s family, as some of his aunts and uncles went to school with the criminals.

“It’s always been there, but no one knew the story about it,” Bromley said.

The main coverage on the perpetrators’ court case and conviction, Bromley said, appeared in mostly Pittsburgh newspapers, as he assumes editors in Mercer County considered the crime an embarrassment to the community.

“It kind of got swept under the rug,” he said.

SRU officials also sought to get past the incident so as not to sully their institution’s reputation, according to Bromley.

“They kept it on the down low,” he said.

The crime that is the subject of Bromley’s first book, “Depravity in the Darkness,” involved four men, aged 19 to 37, who, on March 28, 1968, used guns to kidnap two couples on a double date from outside the former Coat of Arms restaurant in Slippery Rock.

The criminals forced the two young men, who were from Ford City, Armstrong County, into the trunk of their car, and placed the terrified Slippery Rock College coeds in the passenger area.

The victims were driven to Jackson Center, Mercer County, where unspeakable horrors would occur.

The two young women were raped at least 15 times in various locations and one of the young men, Kenneth “Mike” Frick, was shot in the back of the head and buried in a shallow grave.

The three remaining victims, who the perpetrators had planned to kill, were taken to a farmhouse in Mercer County.

They managed to escape and run through a field to a farmhouse, where police were called.

“It resulted in one of the largest manhunts in Pennsylvania up to that point,” Bromley said.

The four men were charged, convicted and sentenced to long jail terms, where three eventually died of old age.

One attempted to escape prison in 1975, but was crushed in the garbage truck he was using as his escape vehicle.

“The whole thing is unbelievable,” Bromley said. “If it wasn’t true, you wouldn’t think it was real.”

One of the female victims has died and one is living, but Bromley was unable to find her.

All four had bright futures ahead of them.

“I say in the book that it was the worst of society and the best of society,” Bromley said. “It was senseless.”

Of the four perpetrators, Art McConnell, at 37, was the oldest.

Gary Batley, 19, was McConnell’s nephew by marriage and had been arrested for rape before.

Donald Hosack, 27, was a high school dropout previously arrested for rape and burglary. He was a fugitive from justice at the time of the crimes.

Kenny Perrine, 21, was the half brother of Batley. He also was a dropout who had prior arrests for rape and burglary. Perrine was scheduled to return to prison the week after the crimes.

“The biggest question is ‘Why?’” Bromley said of looking back on the heinous crime. “You’d think some of them would say ‘This is not a good idea.’”

All four perpetrators attended Lakeview High School in Mercer County and still have family in the area, he said.

Also, all four were intoxicated and under the influence of drugs at the time of the crimes, Bromley said.

Related Article: Documentary to detail kidnapping, murder
Researching for facts

Bromley began his five-year journey into the facts of the case by talking to people he knows who went to school with the criminals or worked with them.

“I went on a fact-finding mission,” he said.

He soon discovered all but one law enforcement officer connected with the case are deceased, and the surviving officer suffers from dementia.

“It was all rumors, so I didn’t put anything into writing until I had confirmations that this is what happened,” Bromley said.

When he asked Mercer County officials about looking at the original police and court documents surrounding the case, the original answer was frustrating, but things worked out.

“The D.A. said all the files were destroyed, but they were in the courthouse basement,” Bromley said. “Pictures, court transcripts, victim and perpetrator testimonies … it was like hitting the jackpot.”

Bromley admits he doesn’t have the stomach of the case’s investigators, who pored over the grisly facts of the crime for months.

“I need to take a break (from writing) because it really messed with me mentally,” he said of putting the book together. “You can’t get this stuff out of your head.”

One of Bromley’s biggest takeaways about the case, beside the brutality of the perpetrators, was the way the attorney for the defense questioned the Slippery Rock coeds in court regarding the rapes as if the innocent girls were willing participants.

“That was most telling, the way the female victims were treated,” he said. “It was way before the ‘Me too’ movement.”

The 130-page “Depravity in the Dark” is available on Amazon.

Todd Bromley heard rumors about the 1968 kidnapping of four young people from Slippery Rock, but was horrified to learn the facts of the case that became his first book, “Depravity in the Darkness.” Submitted photo

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