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Murder suspect just arrested in 1988 cold case suspected in other homicides

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — State police said they’ve cracked a cold case by making an arrest in a murder that happened 30 years ago in Lawrence County.

Regis Brown is now charged with the murder of Bryce Tompkins. Police said Tompkins was shot execution-style in what they described as a "ruthless, brutal murder."

“After 30 years, I’m completely relieved for our family that we can have this closure and my dad can rest now,” said Stacey Harding, Thompkins’ youngest daughter.

Brown told investigators he shot Tompkins because Thompkins witnessed a burglary that Brown and Paul Ayersman, who is now dead, carried out in New Castle in Dec. 1988. Brown told investigators he was worried Tompkins would report them to the police.

According to a criminal complaint, Brown told police he and Ayersman approached Tompkins while he was out walking one night, forced him between two buildings and confronted him. Brown told police he shot Tompkins twice with a revolver stolen during one of the robberies, the complaint said.

Hunters found Tompkins' body partially submerged in a creek about a mile north of New Castle the day after Christmas 1988.

"The family is the victim here. They've had this nightmare for 30 years and I'm hoping they've got some closure," said Trooper Joe Vascetti.


Barb Shepherd, Thompkins’ wife, thanked troopers, the district attorney and everyone else who worked on the case. She said she was pleased that her husband’s killer can’t hurt anyone else.

Brown is already in a Pennsylvania state prison, serving a life sentence for killing his wife and stepdaughter in Erie.

Police believe he may be connected to six to eight other homicides in northwestern Pennsylvania. He has ties to various Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, police said.

He's cooperating with investigators and answering their questions, according to state police.

Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said this case shows the residents of Pennsylvania the diligence of the state police.

"No homicide case is ever closed until it is actually solved," Lamancusa said.