Christopher Speelman

Christopher Speelman was arrested on July 27, 2021 for the August 13, 1987 rape and murder of 85-year-old Edna Laughman in Oxford Township, Pennsylvania.

Laughman was killed by an intruder who forced her to swallow pills, and then sexually assaulted and strangled her while she was unconscious.

Forensic scientists attempted to obtain a profile from a sexual assault kit taken at Laughman’s autopsy in 1993, but the results were not conclusive. A DNA profile was finally obtained in 2003 from the samples – which had inexplicably been lost. They were located in the possession of a former Penn State professor who was then living in Germany.

The FGG investigation was conducted by Parabon Nanolabs. A warrant was obtained by police to take a DNA sample from Speelman for confirmation. There is no information on whether surreptitious sampling was used.

Speelman was convicted of burglary in 1991, and there is currently no information that he has a more recent criminal record.

Barry Laughman, a neighbour and relative of Laughman, was wrongfully convicted of this offence on December 16, 1988. He served about 16 years in prison before being released in 2003. On August 26, 2004, he was finally exonerated by the DNA profile obtained in 2003 when his Y-STR profile showed him to be excluded as a contributor to the crime scene sample. Barry Laughman is reported to have had an IQ of about 70, and to have been functioning at the level of a 10-year-old. This, combined with improper police interrogation techniques, is thought to have contributed to his false confession and wrongful conviction.

Serology evidence introduced at the trial is also thought to have been faulty. Both blood types A (Barry’s) and B (Edna’s) were found at the crime scene. The Innocence Project states that, “The police chemist testified correctly at trial that the victim’s profile could have masked Laughman’s profile. The analyst testified incorrectly, however, that bacterial degradation could have changed type A blood to type B or vice versa.” This was a common problem in the field of serology at the time, and it has led to several wrongful convictions.

On June 22, 2023, Speelman pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison in Adams County Court of Common Pleas.


Abad, Dylan, Seth Kaplan, and Lauren Rude. “Pennsylvania State Police Makes Arrest in 34-Year-Old Cold Case; Suspect Confessed to Actions in Murder.” ABC News 27, July 27, 2021. Accessed July 27, 2021.

Griffaton, Grace, and Cale Ahearn. “New Oxford Man Arrested, Admits to 1987 Homicide in Adams County.” Fox News 43. July 27, 2021. Accessed July 27, 2021.

Innocence Project. “Barry Laughman.” Innocence Project (Cases), 2021. Accessed July 27, 2021.

Kalmbacher, Colin. “Man Who Raped and Killed 87-Year-Old Woman is Sentenced After Pleading Guilty in 1987 Cold Case – Nearly 2 Decades After an Innocent Man Was Exonerated.” Law & Crime, June 24, 2023. Accessed June 25, 2023.

Weinstock, Ed. “DNA Connects Man to 33-Year-Old Homicide, Pennsylvania State Police Say.” WGAL NBC News 8, July 27, 2021. Accessed July 27, 2021.


First Name Christopher
Last Name Speelman
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2018-08-00
Case Cleared 2021-07-27
IGG Org Parabon


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1509 Edna Laughman 85 1987-08-13 Oxford Township, PA Pennsylvania ST Second degree murder Guilty plea entered by defendant Adams CO CT COMM PL

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.