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Philadelphia residents arrested in murder of man found in suitcase


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE:  June 8, 2015
CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris- 610.891.4163

Media, PA – Today District Attorney Jack Whelan and Tinicum Township Police Chief Steve Edmiston announced that a Philadelphia man and his girlfriend face charges in the death of 41-year-old Scott Stephen Bernheisel, whose body was found in a suitcase in Tinicum Township near the Philadelphia Airport on May 28.

Thomas Brennan, 25, of Philadelphia, was arrested the evening of Sunday, June 7 on murder charges and other related offenses. The joint investigation was conducted by the Tinicum Township Police Department, the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Unit. Brennan is being charged with murder, robbery, abuse of corpse, and conspiracy.

Crystal Leibhart, 27, of Philadelphia, was also arrested the evening of Sunday, June 7 on related offences. Leibhart is being charged with robbery involving infliction of serious bodily injury, receiving stolen property, theft by unlawful taking, hindering apprehension, and obstructing justice.

The announcement comes after authorities discovered the body of Scott Stephen Bernheisel on May 28, at approximately 1:50 p.m., after a man walking his dog noticed a strong odor emanating from a brownish red suitcase located in the weeds off of 2nd Street in Tinicum Township. The suitcase was located approximately 20 feet off the road, in the area of 2nd Ave. and 4th Street in Tinicum Township. On May 29, after the completion of the autopsy, the Delaware County Medical Examiner's Office determined the manner of death as a homicide. The victim had suffered multiple blunt force injuries and a stab wound to his neck.

On June 1, Sgt. William Gordon of the Criminal Investigation Division and Sgt. James Y. Simpkins, Jr. of the Tinicum Township Police Department spoke with a long-time friend of Scott Stephen Bernheisel. He told detectives that he had last been in contact with Bernheisel on May 13 and Bernheisel had been staying in the 200 block of Wilder Street in Philadelphia. Sgt. Gordon and Sgt. Simpkins contacted the man who resides at that address. During an interview, the man told detectives that the victim, Scott Bernheisel, had been staying at a house in the 200 block of Wilder for about a month, and that he had last seen Bernheisel on May 14. During the course of the interview, he told detectives that he had been introduced to Bernheisel by Thomas Brennan, who also periodically stays at a house in the 200 block of Wilder Street. He also told detectives that he spoke with another individual who resides in the 200 block of Wilder Street, who told him he had left a sleeping bag at that residence and now the sleeping bag was no longer there. He stated the sleeping bag was maroon on the outside and silver on the inside.

On June 3, Sgt. Gordon and Sgt. Simpkins conducted an inspection of the suitcase and sleeping bag in which the body of Bernheisel had been found. 

The following day, on June 4, Sgt. Gordon, Sgt. Simpkins along with Sgt. Tim Cooney and Det. Jim Burke of the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Unit, once again spoke with the individual who resides in the 200 block of Wilder Street. The detectives asked him if he had any luggage in the residence. He stated that his ex-wife stored decorations in an old suitcase in a closet located underneath the stairs. When he led detectives to the location of the suitcase, it was not there. That same day, on June 4, detectives interviewed the ex-wife, whose description of the suitcase was identical to the suitcase in which the body of Bernheisel was found.  After detectives showed her a photograph of the actual suitcase, she confirmed it was the same suitcase that she stored Christmas decorations in, and kept in a closet in the 200 block of Wilder Street.

Based on witness accounts, and the investigation, it was determined by authorities that Thomas Brennan murdered Scott Stephen Bernheisel and stored him in a closet, in a sleeping bag, in a house on the 200 block of Wilder Street in Philadelphia, and then transported him to Tinicum Township in a suitcase, which he left on the side of the road.

“I would like to commend Sgt. William Gordon of the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division and Sgt. James Y. Simpkins, Jr. of Tinicum Township along with Sgt. Tim Cooney and Det. Jim Burke of the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Unit for their exceptional investigative work on this complicated case that led to the swift arrest of the perpetrator,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan.
For any questions in regards to the arrest of Thomas Brennan or Crystal Leibhart, please contact the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334.