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Pennsylvania man arrested in murder of pregnant Amish woman

Pennsylvania man arrested in murder of pregnant Amish woman

A Pennsylvania man has been arrested and charged with the slaying of a pregnant Amish woman whose body was found in her home last week.

Shawn Cranston, 52, of Corry, was taken into custody Friday night less than a week after 23-year-old Rebekah Byler was found with what Pennsylvania police said appeared to be cutting wounds to her neck and head.

Mr Cranston is accused of breaking into the home on Fish Flats Road in Sparta Township and killing Byler by “shooting her in the head and/or slashing her throat,” according to the criminal complaint.

Byler’s husband, Andy Byler, found her body inside the home shortly on 26 February. Two young Byler children at the home were not harmed, Trooper Cynthia Schick told The Associated Press.

The killing shocked the rural community in northwestern Pennsylvania, where people say the Amish get along well with their neighbors in the area.

Shawn Cranston, 52, of Corry, was taken into custody Friday night and charged with Rebekah Byler’s murder (Crawford County Correctional Facility)
Shawn Cranston, 52, of Corry, was taken into custody Friday night and charged with Rebekah Byler’s murder (Crawford County Correctional Facility)

Mr Cranston was arrested Friday outside of a Dollar General store on Main Street, next to his home.

He has been charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, according to court documents.

At a preliminary arraignment on Saturday morning, he was denied bond and remains in Crawford County jail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 15 March.

Following the arrest, a woman claiming to be his foster daughter told FOX66 that Cranston is the only father she’s ever known and believes the murder is a case of mistaken ideinity.

“Like I could never picture my dad being that cold-hearted monster. Never in a million years,” the woman said.

“As far as I know, he just wanted his grandson back,” she added as she explained that the Amish couple who lived in Byler’s home a few years ago had adopted Mr 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 said.

Rebekah Byler’s body was found inside her home on the Fish Flats property (WJET)
Rebekah Byler’s body was found inside her home on the Fish Flats property (WJET)
A sign on the sidewalk outside an antique store in Spartan pays tribute to the slain woman (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)
A sign on the sidewalk outside an antique store in Spartan pays tribute to the slain woman (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)

The Amish generally follow basic Christian beliefs and practices but are not homogeneous, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

They are known for simple clothing and for relying on horses and buggies for transportation. Local congregations maintain a variety of rules and restrictions regarding dress, the use of technology and participation in American society.

The overall Amish population is nearly 400,000 people in hundreds of settlements across 32 states, Canada and Bolivia. Pennsylvania has one of the greatest concentrations of Amish.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.