47-Year-Old Murder Mystery On Pennsylvania Turnpike Solved Thanks To Short Story In Biker Magazine, Cops Say

Larry Via is suspected of killing Morgan Peters on a Pennsylvnia turnpike in 1972. Police charged him last week after they discovered a story the 75-year-old had written for a biker magazine in the 1980s bore a striking similarity to Peters’ murder. 

By Dorian Geiger
Digital Original
5 Infamous Cold Cases of Murder

In September 1972, two college students driving on a Pennsylvania turnpike en route to the University of Cincinnati pulled over to urinate when they accidentally stumbled upon a man with a bullet hole in his back lying face down in a ditch. 

It was Morgan Peters, a 29-year-old Olympic wrestler from Long Island. He had been fatally shot. Authorities found his red Ford pickup truck nearby. Police determined a small calibre firearm killed the young man, but never made any arrests. And for 47 years, the case remain unsolved.

But last week, police charged 75-year-old Larry Via in Peters’ killing after authorities said he described the slaying — and other crimes, including a different murder he supposedly committed — in short stories he penned for sleazy and obscure biker magazines in the 1980s, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by Oxygen.com

Via, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Ohio prison for the 1972 murder of 19-year-old motorist Jane Maguire — who was bound, raped, and shot three times — was charged last week with first-degree murder and robbery in connection to Peters’ killing. Police had been working to connect Via to the decades-old murder since 2009. 

Larry Via Ap

But in 2017, Charmaine Phillips, Via’s alleged accomplice, who had driven him across the country that summer in her Cadillac and who allegedly helped carry out a string of robberies and other violent attacks, including the attempted murder of gas station owner Harvey Hoffman, tipped off investigators to information that would implicate Via in Peters’ slaying.

She told detectives that one summer evening in 1972 while roaming the interstate, Via asked her to pull over to the side of the road in the “middle of nowhere,” the affidavit stated. 

When a vehicle, which police believe belonged to Peters, pulled up behind them, Via exited her Cadillac, Phillips told police. A few moments later, Via allegedly got back in the car and told the woman, “We gotta go!” Phillips said she then drove back onto the freeway and that Via — who had gotten into the vehicle that had pulled up behind them — followed her. Phillips said they later dumped the vehicle on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Phillips told detectives she didn’t hear a gunshot when the pair had been pulled over. 

Morgan Peters Da

The information wasn’t quite enough to fully connect Via to Peters’ 1972 killing, but police would soon find the evidence they needed in a most unexpected place: a trashy '80s biker rag. Via, who the Washington Post reported was a wannabe poet and songwriter in Cleveland, supposedly freelanced and sold short fiction stories to the biker magazines while behind bars.

State trooper Jeffrey Baney, an investigator on the case, learned that the convicted murderer was writing short fiction and poetry for motorcycle magazines using the pen name "Jody Via." Authorities uncovered nine different clippings attributed to the amateur writer that had been published in Outlaw Biker and Easy Rider magazines between 1985 and 1989.

One of those stories, detectives say, bore startling parallels to Peters’ murder — and tied Via to the Long Island bouncer’s unsolved turnpike slaying.

Via’s short story, “Dangerous Dave,” published in a September 1985 edition of Outlaw Biker, described a “‘hitchhiking cutie’ with pigtails” who deceives a motorist into pulling over for her.

“As the driver approached her on foot, a ‘cold’ voice from behind a tree told the man to stop and not ‘move a muscle,’ the probable cause affidavit also stated. “‘Dangerous Dave’ then describes the shooter approaching the man and ‘ready to shoot.’”

In 2015, Philips had also told federal investigators that Via liked to use her for a “ruse” that involved baiting motorists and tricking them into pulling over under the guise they were hitchhikers. 

“She and Via would use to get people to pull over on the highway, Phillips acknowledged that they would pretend to be hitchhiking to get a ride,” the criminal complaint stated. 

Phillips’ new statements, and Via’s short stories, were apparently enough to charge the 75-year-old with Peters’ murder nearly half a century later. 

A trial date hasn’t yet been set, according to Pennsylvania prosecutors. Matt Fogal, Franklin County district attorney, told Oxygen.com that it could “take a lot of time” before a court date is scheduled, noting that Via needs to first be extradited from Ohio, where he’s currently incarcerated. It’s unclear if Via has retained legal counsel. 

Authorities said Peters’ family has been notified of the new charges.  

Vintage-era copies of the biker magazines Via wrote for are for sale via online collectors. A 1991 edition of Outlaw Biker, currently advertised for $10 on Amazon, promises readers a salacious dose of “bikes, broads and boogie.” 

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