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The Disappearance and Murder of David Reed (Video)


In 1985, the small community of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, was shaken by the disappearance and subsequent murder of 14-year-old David Reed. This cold case remained unsolved for nearly 23 years until advancements in investigative techniques and persistent efforts by law enforcement brought the perpetrator to justice.

The Disappearance

On August 21, 1985, David Reed was reported missing after failing to return home for supper. His family and friends, along with local authorities, searched the area extensively. David’s bike, an essential part of his daily routine, was found abandoned near the railroad tracks, raising concerns about his safety.

Initial Investigation

Despite exhaustive searches and numerous flyers posted around town, there were no immediate leads. The discovery of David’s skull and other remains in the woods months later by a local resident intensified the investigation. An anthropologist determined the cause of death to be undetermined due to a fracture on the back of David’s skull.

Breakthrough in the Case

Years later, Trooper Bob Betnar reopened the cold case, focusing on interviews conducted when David first went missing. A significant lead emerged when a witness reported seeing David get into a blue van. However, the owner of the van was eventually excluded as a suspect due to being in federal prison at the time of David’s disappearance.

The Confession

Persistent efforts led investigators to Joe Geiger, a local drug dealer with a history of sexual abuse. Geiger, along with John Fry, was implicated in David’s death. Geiger confessed that during a confrontation over stolen marijuana plants, David was struck, causing him to fall and fatally hit his head. Geiger and Fry hid David’s body in panic.

Legal Proceedings

Joe Geiger was charged with third-degree murder, manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse. Despite the serious charges, Geiger received a sentence of no more than two years in prison, a decision that left David’s family and friends feeling that justice was only partially served.


The resolution of David Reed’s case, nearly two decades after his murder, highlights the dedication of law enforcement in pursuing justice for cold cases. While the sentence may seem inadequate to many, the confession and subsequent conviction brought a sense of closure to a community haunted by the tragic loss of a young boy.


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