In the past century, countless York County crimes have captured the interest of the public and dominated local newspaper headlines. But until now, no local case garnered more outside attention than the hex murder.

Dubbed York's "crime of the century," the 1928 slaying involved the murder of a witch, or "pow-wower," named Nelson Rehmeyer. John Blymire killed Rehmeyer because he believed the man had cast a spell on him that ruined his life for 15 years.

At the time, the national and world media found the story so sensational they converged on York like never before -- or since.

The prospect of witchcraft being widely practiced more than 200 years after the Salem, Mass., witch trials was a shock to big-city types, and the added hook of a murder brought reporters scurrying to York.

At a trial packed with out-of-town reporters, Blymire and one of his two teenage accomplices were convicted. The second accomplice was convicted later.

Blymire was sentenced to life in prison, as was his codefendant, John Curry, but Curry's term was commuted to 10 to 20 years and he was paroled in 1939. The other codefendant, Wilbert Hess, received 10 to 20 years and also was paroled in 1939.

Yet the lure of the trial continued for decades: The story of Rehmeyer's violent beating was even recounted in a 1988 movie, starring actor Donald Sutherland as Blymire.


Now, the belated trial of a group of men -- including a former York mayor -- accused of killing a black woman during the city's divisive 1969 race riots could surpass the hex murder as York's most notorious case.

"The hex (trial) will pale in comparison," York County District Attorney Stan Rebert predicted.

But another longtime local attorney, Harold Fitzkee, said that while the Allen trial will certainly be infamous nationally, it won't surpass the legendary hex murder.

"There's no mystique in the Allen case," he said. "The hex case had voodoo."

In fact, the national and international media flocked to York for the Allen defendants' initial hearings mainly because one of the defendants is former York Mayor Charles Robertson.

And local interest in the case remains high partly because a former mayor is implicated, as well as because so many people who lived through the riots have strong opinions about that time.

But other crimes have also caught the attention of York County residents, often because of their gruesome or tragic details.

Notorious: Some remain notorious, such as cross-state spree murderer Mark Newton Spotz, who executed three women in three counties in three days while on the run in 1995 after killing his brother.

All three women were killed during carjackings --Penny Gunnet of New Salem, June Rose Ohlinger of Schuylkill County and Betty Amstutz of Cumberland County -- and Spotz was sentenced to death for their killings.

And it will be hard for Yorkers to ever forget the February 2001 machete attack by William "Mike" Stankewicz on a kindergarten class at North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School. Eleven students, two teachers and Principal Norina Bentzel were injured, but Bentzel and others managed to disarm the man.

Stankewicz pleaded guilty to the crime in September 2001, but showed no real remorse, saying, "One man's terror is another man's justice." He was sentenced to 132 to 264 years in prison.

While Stankewicz's attack on schoolchildren remains fresh in York County's consciousness, the public memory of other high-profile crimes seems to have faded with time.

Here are several cases that also made headlines and riveted readers:

Bloody Bible verses: The community was stunned in 1972 by the bloody murder of an 82-year-old woman in her West Jackson Street home.

Myrtle Fishel died in her bathtub from a combination of bite wounds to the neck, knife slashes and a gunshot. York resident Glenn Watt, described at the time by a psychiatrist as severely mentally disabled, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1980 and committed to a state psychiatric hospital. 

"He wrote Bible verses in her blood on the wall above the tub," District Attorney Rebert recalled.

Watt, who was 47 at the time of Fishel's slaying, has never been released, according to records.

In her mother's arms: Originally sentenced to death for fatally stabbing 18-year-old girlfriend Tammy Mock 200 times in their West King Street apartment in 1992, Daniel Jacobs awaits a new sentence, after his capital sentence was overturned on appeal last year.

He is also serving a life sentence for the drowning death of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs. Mock and the child were found in the bathtub, with Holly placed in her dead mother's arms.

Former longtime York County Coroner Kathryn Fourhman called the murders "the most brutal case I've seen."

The death sentence was overturned after appeal attorneys argued Jacobs' trial attorneys erred by not introducing mitigating testimony, including assertions that Jacobs was mentally ill, that his IQ is less than 70 and that he was abused as a child.

Aleta's torture: York County residents were shocked and angered to action when newspapers reported the death of 5-year-old Aleta Bailey of Dover.

Aleta, whose family was already under the scrutiny of the county Children and Youth Services, died of multiple brain hemorrhages in 1982 after being raped, beaten and abused by her mother's boyfriend, Larry Hake.

Although caseworkers had been alerted to the potential for abuse, police were not notified by Children and Youth Services because under state law at that time, CYS couldn't share the information.

In the months after Aleta's death, more than 80,000 county residents signed petitions demanding tougher laws to protect abused children. Public outcry over Aleta's murder changed the law, requiring CYS to report such abuse to the police -- as long as the abuser was not a "family member."

The new law also directed various agencies, including hospitals, police, social services and district attorney's offices, to share information on suspected child-abuse cases.

Hake was sentenced to life in prison. He hanged himself in his cell with a bed sheet in 1986. Aleta's mother, Jo Ellen Naylor, was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

'Jesus told me to kill': Jack Bernard Pifer's sanity became an issue before and during his three-week out-of-county trial on charges of rape and aggravated assault for trying to rape and kill a 19-year-old girl in July 1977.

Pifer stood trial in Schuylkill County because a court ruled pretrial publicity would keep him from getting a fair trial in York.

He was represented by Rebert, who at the time was a public defender.

Recalling the case, Rebert compared Pifer to Freddy Krueger of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies.

"Pifer was a maniac rapist who slit his victim's throat and waited for her to die before having sex with her," Rebert said. "But she managed to escape."

The woman lived to testify against Pifer, who eventually was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in a state-run mental facility. In 1979, the state gave Pifer's victim $358 in "compensation."

At trial, Pifer -- who had a history of indecent assault and morals charges -- claimed that "Jesus told me to kill."

He chose money over Mom: When James Garrett's extravagant spending and financial support of a women's wrestling team left him broke, he set his sights on his elderly mother's $800,000 estate.

The 48-year-old man used a pickax to separate his mother from her money.

The body of Grace Garrett, 79, was found in the basement of her 915 Wayne Ave. home in March 1989. Just feet from her body lay the bloody pickax.

Rebert, who prosecuted Garrett, urged the jury to show Garrett "as much mercy as he showed his mother." Jurors found Garrett guilty of first-degree murder, which in Pennsylvania carries a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole.

"The only remorse he showed was that he may have to clean up" the basement, former York City Police Detective Scott Rohrbaugh said at the time.