Unsolved: Who Killed Mary Ellen Lenihan and June P. Eberlin?

Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pa), Nov. 5, 1970

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a world in conflict with the military actions in Vietnam. Sadly, in late 1970, world events would overshadow the disappearance of two young women from Queensborough Community College in New York. When their bodies were discovered a week later in the mountains of South-Central Pennsylvania, it failed to garner much attention outside of Pennsylvania and New York. The murders of the two young college students remain a mystery to the present day.

Founded in 1959, Queensborough Community College covers 37 acres in Bayside, Queens, New York. Originally a campus of the State University of New York, in 1965 the college was transferred to the City University of New York.

In 1970, Mary Ellen Lenihan and June Eberlin were among the students attending Queensborough Community College. Both young ladies, who were in the nursing program, had turned nineteen that year and were known to be inseparable by friends and classmates. Described by their families as sweet, charming, and loved by those who knew them, the young ladies were scheduled to graduate the following year.

The last day the two coeds were seen alive on the grounds of Queensborough Community College was Friday, October 23, when Mary Ellen left her home to spend the night at June’s place. The duo planned on leaving the following morning to visit a friend living in Washington, D.C. and attend a peace rally of the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, an organization Lenihan had recently become involved with. While in Washington, D.C., Lenihan had planned on visiting the George Washington University, to learn more about their advance program in psychiatry.

It would be later determined the duo were spotted the following day, October 24, near Baltimore. This was the last time the young ladies were seen alive. Note: the information the two young ladies had been spotted alive in Baltimore is very briefly mentioned in a couple newspaper articles. Any information regarding how they got there and if they had been traveling with somebody was never placed in the newspapers.

Neither of the young coeds had plans on contacting their parents upon arriving in Washington, D.C. and planned on being back on campus either Monday or Tuesday of the following week. When they had not been heard from by Wednesday, October 28, June’s father contacted the Missing Persons Bureau in New York. In a response that is too common, detectives stated the two young ladies were adults so nothing could be done by New York authorities.

On November 4, 1970, the bodies of two young ladies were discovered near the small Bedford County community of Warfordsburg. Otis Shives, a caretaker for the Pennsylvania Department of Highways, was cleaning debris along Interstate 70 – roughly two miles north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border – when he made the horrific discovery.

The bodies were quickly identified as Mary Ellen Lenihan and June Eberlin due to a student ID found at the scene. The two young ladies had been deceased between three and six days before their bodies had been discovered at this remote location. Authorities believed the bodies of the two coeds had been placed at the location within hours of their death.

Miss Lenihan was nude except for her socks while June was discovered fully clothed. Both girls had been killed with a .32 caliber gun. June had been shot twice – once in the hand and once in the head – and Mary Ellen had been shot once in the head. Both bodies showed scrape wounds, indicating they had been tortured and killed elsewhere before being transported to this remote location, where they were dumped over the hillside to the location along Interstate 70.

Despite searches by authorities, the weapon used to kill the young ladies was never recovered.

What was discovered was a rope used to drag the bodies and a piece of LSD-laced chewing gum on the body of Miss Eberlin. The piece of chewing gum led to the conclusion the two coeds had been attacked by people under the influence of drugs.

Immediately after the discovery of their bodies, reports were brought to the attention of the Pennsylvania State Police there had been two girls spotted the Tuesday night before the bodies were discovered. The unidentified ladies were in the company of a long-haired young man who robbed a gas station near Warfordsburg. The young man, who was described as having long hair and wearing a light-colored buckskin coat, was not considered a suspect in the murders.

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific discovery, Connecticut State Police did stop a young man of similar description who had been hitchhiking near Westport. A search of the hitchhiker resulted in the discovery of a knife with a twelve-inch blade and numerous pills. During questioning, the young man admitted he had been in Pennsylvania at the time the girls were murdered and claimed he was currently residing in Natick, Massachusetts. It was determined the young man had nothing to do with the murders.

In 1975, Pennsylvania State Police again traveled to Connecticut to interview Richard Delage, who was convicted for the 1969 murder of Paget Weatherley and the 1960 murder of Carole Segretta – both had been killed with a .32 caliber weapon. Despite being questioned extensively state police could not place Delage in Pennsylvania at the time the young ladies were murdered, nor were they able to make a definite connection between the recovered bullets and Delage’s weapon. Delage was never charged with the murders, although he was considered the most likely suspect.

The two classmates would be returned to their hometowns in New York, where they were placed to rest. Mary Ellen Lenihan was buried in the Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale while June P. Eberlin rests in the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing.

Since 1975, the murders of Mary Ellen Lenihan and June P. Eberlin have disappeared from the newspapers and from public memory – the last time I could find a mention in newspapers was in the early 2000s.While not impossible to solve, the years have made it harder – the truth of what happened to the two young coeds from Queensborough Community College lingers in the mountains of south-central Pennsylvania.

Hopefully one day the truth of who killed them will be revealed and their murders will be solved. Until then, their murders will not be forgotten.

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