Man Arrested & Charged For Murder of Rebekah Byler & Her Unborn Child (Updated)

News is just coming out that police have made an arrest in the Rebekah Byler murder case. This comes five days after Rebekah’s body was discovered at home by her husband. From Yourerie.com:

Spartansburg, Pa. (WJET/WFXP) — State police have announced the arrest of 52-year-old Shawn Cranston of Corry, PA in the killing of 23-year-old Rebekah Byler.

Cranston is being charged with Criminal Homicide, Criminal Homicide of Unborn Child, Burglary, and Criminal trespass. Cranston was arraigned just before 4:30 Saturday morning. He is currently being held without bail at the Crawford County Jail.

Cranston’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 15th. The arrest comes after an exhaustive five-day-long investigation.

Police tape outside the Byler home. Image: Jet24 Action News

There isn’t much more information as of right now on what led authorities to Cranston, and what evidence suggests he was the perpetrator. But I’m glad that it appears they were able to act swiftly and find who they believe committed the crimes, and trust they had good reason to make this arrest.

Image: Fox 66 News

I’m also sad to say some of the commentary on the YouTube video I did on this delved deep into speculation, some of it on the crazy conspiratorial side – about not only Rebekah’s poor husband, but the Amish community as well. But cases like this will bring that out.

Hopefully this arrest will bring some level of peace, or at least remove some anxiety from the family and community at a very difficult time.


Update #1

Cranston’s preliminary hearing is March 15. Police searched his residence last night and this morning prior to the arrest:

Details on what led police to identify Cranston as a suspect in Byler’s death, and information on a possible motive in the killing, were not immediately available Saturday.

State police did say that as part of the investigation, troopers searched Cranston’s residence in Corry on Friday night and into Saturday morning. It was not known what investigators might have found at the residence.

Also a brief video report from CBS News Pittsburgh/KDKA:

Update #2 – Mugshot

Authorities have released a mugshot of Shawn Christopher Cranston, 52, who has been charged in the case. Cranston is being held at the Crawford County Jail.

Shawn Christopher Cranston of Corry, PA, has been charged in the deaths of Rebekah Byler and her unborn child. Photo: Crawford County Jail

Update #3 – Mistaken identity?

A woman who says Cranston was her foster father growing up has speculated on his motives, suggesting mistaken identity was involved, and that Cranston “just wanted his grandson back” According to her, the grandson had been adopted years earlier by an Amish couple. Via yourerie.com:

That woman is in her 20s now and has children of her own, but she said Cranston is the only father she’s known. She was visibly upset and did not want to be on camera.

“Like I could never picture my dad being that cold-hearted monster. Never in a million years,” daughter of Shawn C. Cranston.

The morning of the murder, neighbors reported seeing a red Jeep in Byler’s driveway. Then on Friday night, a red Jeep was towed from Cranston’s home.

“As far as I know, he just wanted his grandson back,” she added.

Cranston’s daughter believes the murder was a case of mistaken identity. She added the Amish couple who lived in Byler’s home a few years ago adopted Cranston’s grandson.

“Supposedly she started yelling at him, coming in, then that’s when boom, all it took. It’s just horrifying to think that,” she continued.

Update #4

Here’s the video with Cranston’s foster daughter speaking off-camera. Note: there is a somewhat disturbing description of the manner of Rebekah Byler’s death.

Update #5

This article in People magazine (March 4) reports what seems like a completely obvious statement, if you’ve been paying any attention until now: “Suspect in Killing of Pregnant Pa. Woman Was ‘Not a Member of Amish Community’: Police“. But I suppose it needs saying, given some of the ideas out there.

Update #6

As to the manner of the crime, it sounds like both a firearm and blade were used. More on that here, but it’s graphic and I’d consider avoiding it if you don’t need to know.

This report (March 5) describes weapons and related material recovered from Cranston’s home, and the additional detail that “Police have not disclosed what they think may have motivated Shawn C. Cranston, 52, to kill her in the living room, where her husband and a family friend found her.”

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    12 Comments

    1. Rod

      Children home

      -This I did not know. If children were home, they were harmed in the psychological sense. They will be harmed by the loss of their mother.
      Very Sad is all I can say.

    2. K.D.

      Suspect Arrested . . . Byler case

      Hello all,
      I am very interested to know if the man arrested in PA has any connection to
      Rebekah Byler or her family. I pray her young children were napping during their
      mother’s murder. Thanks Erik for bringing us this update. I live in AZ and as of
      Friday night had heard nothing new. Very nice to know that someone cares.

    3. Michelle

      Murder of Rebekah

      Lord help us. I too initially was thinking thoughts there are now unfounded. However the red truck in her driveway made me rethink. Why would anyone murder a young pregnant Wiman who bothers no one or has any enemies. Our entire world has really gone crazy. Peace prayers and comfort to all of her family and friends. No wonder why the Amish are distant to the outside world . I bet they will lock doors and get ring doorbells/cameras for safety of there people . God rest her soul . I sure hope he didn’t r… her.

    4. K.D.

      Unrelated request . . .

      Hi Erik,

      I was just thinking on the sudden death of Daniel Yoder, husband of
      Amish Foods columnist Gloria Yoder and their 6 children. I don’t know
      about other readers of your website, but I would welcome an update
      (perhaps an interview?) on Gloria and her family. Please think about it.

      1. Clu Carradine

        Daniel Yoder

        I’d like an update on this as well.

    5. Rebecca

      Byler Case

      I have Amish friends who live in the Berne, Indiana area, nearer Geneva. I have secretly always been a little afraid for them because they all live in the country and tend to not lock doors. Husbands are gone to work and children are off to school and many women are left at home with very young children each day of the week but weekends. There is so much craziness and cruelty in today’s world and when I read about this story and the “red vehicle”, I knew it was a horrible person who was scouting the area and took advantage of the situation. What on earth was she to do? The Amish need to come to terms with the fact that this world is not exactly safe for them either. Very saddening indeed.

    6. john

      amish deaths

      I’am glad they caught the killer but find it interesting that per the headline he is being charged with her death and the death of her unborn child. I have seen other deaths where a mother is killed while with child and the killer is charged with 2 deaths yet we as a society allow abortions to happen with no problem because the mother did not want to baby and yet she is not charged with murder. We as a society are going down the slippery slope all lives are important yet we allow them to kill unborn babies with no problems. Maybe that we a society are able to kill each other for no reason. Look at the amount of road rage shooting that are happening across the country almost every day you read about them in the news are we becoming decentatized to killings

    7. Gary

      Hung

      When I was a boy in Wash. State I would sometimes listen to a hanging on the radio from the state Penn. Hanging was legal then (early 1950’s) I remember thinking boy I am never going down that road. There were consequences for crimes against society that were on public display
      then. If found guilty should this man be bound gagged and hung on television? It seems like consequences don’t exist in our society anymore.
      I know this subject is very complicated however it seems to me that this type of crime needs more then just life in prison. Gary

    8. Clu Carradine

      Rebekah Byler

      That poor woman….and her husband coming home to her body. This story really hit me when I read it and I’m glad they seem to have caught the killer. Just awful.

    9. Central Virginian

      Tragic

      If the charged suspect has a previous arrest and/or conviction, or if his DNA is on file for any other reason, the quick arrest may be attributable to a DNA match.

      1. K.D.

        Response Central Virginian

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing: perhaps they found Cranston’s DNA (or at
        least his fingerprints?) inside the Byler home. Also, I had heard that Cranston
        lives/lived less than 10 miles from the Byler home. Pretty easy for people to
        notice a red Jeep in his driveway when a red Jeep was reportedly in the Byler
        driveway too. I wonder if he will plead “Not guilty by mental disease or defect”?
        Seems lots of defense attorneys suggest such a plea when it’s obvious their
        client WAS in fact at the scene of/responsible for the crime of which they’re accused.
        Does anyone know in the state of PA have the death penalty? I think it should be used
        but on a case-by-case basis, not across the board.

    10. K.D.

      Byler case . . .

      Erik,
      Will you be posting anything on the arraignment of
      52 yr old Shawn Cranston in the murder of Rebekah
      Byler? I understand he was arraigned yesterday during
      a 5 and a half hour long hearing. A little news please . . .