An Athlete Murdered Young – Death of Aimee Willard

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June 20, 1996

Aimee Willard‘s athletic accomplishments earned her a scholarship to play lacrosse and soccer at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. It was in lacrosse that the 22-year-old tomboy particularly excelled; by her junior year, she led the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring and assists. She was designated as one of the top 25 female lacrosse players in the United States, but because of a man described as “pure evil,” she became an athlete who died young.

In the early morning hours of June 20, 1996, Aimee’s car was found abandoned along Interstate 476 near Philadelphia. That afternoon, her badly beaten body was found in the north part of the city.

Three people emerged as suspects in Aimee’s murder, but all were cleared after DNA identified the true culprit. Twenty-four years after Aimee’s murder, her killer remains on Pennsylvania’s death row, his appeals nearly exhausted.

The only mystery remaining in the murder of Aimee Willard is when will the man who took her life pay for the crime?

On June 19, eleven days after her 22nd birthday, Aimee met friends at Smokey Joe’s Tavern in Wayne, just north of Philadelphia. Conversing at the tavern for nearly three hours, the girls had a great time catching up with each other. Aimee drank only a small amount of alcohol and left the bar between 1:30-1:45 a.m. on June 20.

On the day before summer officially started, the warm Pennsylvania morning was about to be marred by a chilling crime.

Shortly after 2:00 a.m., off-duty paramedics found Aimee’s car parked along the shoulder of an Interstate 476 off-ramp. Its engine was running, the lights were on, and the radio was playing. The driver’s side door was open, and a trail of fresh bloodstains dotted the pavement. A bloody tire iron lay by the side of the car, which was later identified as Aimee’s.

Police were summoned and found more blood along the passenger side of the car and the nearby guardrail. Later that morning, they found underwear and tennis shoes at the top of the ramp, also determined to be Aimee’s. Her other clothes were never found.

That afternoon, 17 miles away in North Philadelphia, two children playing in a vacant lot discovered Aimee’s nude body. An autopsy determined she had been sexually assaulted and killed by blunt force trauma that crushed her skull. She had been killed at approximately 7:00 a.m. on June 20.

Three men became suspects in the murder of Aimee Willard. Disturbingly, two of them were in law enforcement, and the third had previously masqueraded as such. 

As police searched the ramp where Aimee’s abandoned car was found, 23-year-old Andrew Kobak approached them, saying he had been on the ramp early that morning and had seen the car. Kobak had once worked five blocks from where Aimee’s body was found. More interestingly, he had previously been arrested for impersonating a police officer.

Kobak allowed police to search his car. They found handcuffs and a flashlight similar to those used by law enforcement. A search of his home-produced police paraphernalia as well as a magazine that could be used to order police equipment. After the searches, Kobak stopped cooperating with authorities.

Police were convinced they had their man, believing he approached Aimee under the guise of a police officer. Two bona fide law enforcement officers, however, also emerged as suspects.

An off-duty Pennsylvania state trooper, who lived only a few blocks from Aimee’s home, claimed to have seen both Aimee’s car and a police officer parked in a squad car behind it. The trooper said he spoke briefly with the officer, offering his assistance. When told he was not needed, the trooper said he drove away.

All of the police officers who responded to the call of Aimee’s abandoned car, however, said no one identifying himself as a state trooper spoke to them. Furthermore, authorities determined the trooper was in a different location at the time. The trooper soon resigned from the Pennsylvania State Patrol.

One week later, a local police officer not involved in the investigation into Aimee’s murder came forward, saying he had come upon her car while the paramedics were on the scene but before the police arrived. The officer said he saw the paramedics parked behind her car and that he spoke with them. The paramedics, however, contradicted the officer’s account, saying they neither saw nor spoke with him. Like the state trooper, the police officer later admitted to lying to his fellow lawmen. He, too, resigned shortly thereafter.

Investigators had three suspects in the murder of Aimee Willard: Andrew Kobak, who pretended to be one of them, and two of their actual own; the Pennsylvania State Trooper and the local police officer. DNA tests, however, exonerated all three men.

The only connection Aimee’s killer had to law enforcement was his multiple arrests. 

In December 1997, one-and-a-half years after Aimee’s murder, semen found on her body was matched to 38-year-old Arthur Bomar, Jr.

Police were led to Bomar after nineteen-year-old Patty Jordan reported an attempted carjacking near Philadelphia. A man had tailed her after she left a local nightclub and purposely struck the back of her vehicle. He tried to get her to pull over, but she refused.

As Patty drove off, she memorized the car’s license plate number. The plate was traced to Bomar. In December 1997, one-and-a-half years after Aimee’s murder, semen found on her body was matched to 38-year-old Arthur Bomar, Jr.

Police were led to Bomar after nineteen-year-old Patty Jordan reported an attempted carjacking near Philadelphia. A man had tailed her after she left a local nightclub and purposely struck the back of her vehicle. He tried to get her to pull over, but she refused.

As Patty drove off, she memorized the car’s license plate number. The plate was traced to Bomar.

Bomar was no stranger to authorities. He had previously been convicted of several assaults on young women and the second-degree murder of a woman in Nevada in 1978. He had been sentenced to life in prison but was granted parole after serving only eleven years. The parole board evidently thought Bomar had been rehabilitated. They would soon be proven deadly wrong.

In 1990, less than a year after he was paroled, Bomar was charged with the attempted murder of a woman named Theresa Thompson; the charges were dropped after she died of a drug overdose in 1991 before the case was brought to trial. He was also believed to be connected to the rape of a Philadelphia college student, though the evidence was not sufficient to charge him.

The evidence, however, was more than sufficient to charge him with the murder of Aimee Willard.

At approximately 8:30 p.m. on the evening of June 19, 1996, Philadelphia police had pulled Bomar over for a traffic infraction only six blocks from where Aimee’s car would be found in the early morning hours of June 20. Police sought to question him but could not initially locate him.

The following week, Bomar was arrested after trying to break into a woman’s apartment. As the three other men emerged as suspects, authorities turned their attention away from Bomar and did not question him then about Aimee’s murder.

After the DNA evidence linked Bomar to Aimee’s murder, his girlfriend told authorities he was at Smokey Joe’s Tavern on the evening of June 20, 1996. It is believed he noticed Aimee at the bar and followed her along Route 476 after she departed.

Due to the damage found on the front of Bomar’s car and the back of Aimee’s car, police believe he purposefully rammed the back of her car to get her to pull over. When Aimee exited her vehicle to exchange information, Bomar is believed to have struck her with the tire iron later found alongside her car.

After knocking Aimee unconscious, Bomar is believed to have taken her to north Philadelphia, where he raped her and killed her with three blows to her head from another large object. Afterward, he is believed to have run over her with his car. A burn pattern found on Aimee’s back was consistent with the oil pan on the bottom of Bomar’s Ford Escort, which was found in a junkyard with slight damage to the front bumper. Its tires matched the impressions found near Aimee’s car.

Furthermore, DNA testing showed blood found on the car’s door was Aimee’s.

In February 2003, six-and-half years after Aimee’s murder, Arthur Bomar, Jr. was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. He was also convicted of rape, assault, kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse.

At his sentencing, Bomar professed he was convicted only because he is black. He then flipped his middle finger at Aimee’s mother, Gail, and told her to f**k herself. He also threatened to kill her and her two other children.

When Bomar had been arrested for breaking into the woman’s apartment a few days after Aimee’s murder in June 1996, he had a set of keys for a Honda in his pocket. Police learned he had put his Ford Escort’s license plate on the Honda. It was the license plate Patty Jordan had memorized when the car rammed her.

The plate was registered to Bomar, but the Honda belonged to 25-year-old Maria Cabuenos, another Pennsylvania woman who had been reported missing in March 1996, three months before Aimee’s murder. Maria is also believed to have been abducted on Route 476, near where Aimee’s car was found. Dried blood was found in the trunk of her Honda, and both bumpers were slightly scraped, as were the bumpers on Aimee’s car. Moreover, Aimee’s blood and hair were found in Maria’s car.

In January 1998, three months after Bomar’s conviction for Aimee’s murder, Maria Cabuenos’ remains were found in nearby Bucks County. Like Aimee, she had died of blunt force trauma.

Bomar is the prime suspect in Maria’s murder, but he is not likely to be charged because of his death sentence. 

Over 17 years after his conviction for the murder of Aimee Willard, Arthur Bomar, Jr. remains on Pennsylvania’s death row, still exhausting his appeals. In 2014, his appeal was rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. His remaining options are few, but a date has still not been set for his execution.

Bomar maintains he did not kill Aimee and still insists he was convicted only because he is black. No one of any color is supporting his claim.

Authorities continue to investigate Bomar’s possible involvement in other homicides. They believe he may be a serial killer but have not yet been able to link him to any more murders.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, AKA “Aimee’s Law,” was introduced by then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000.

The Act encourages states to keep murderers, rapists, and child molesters behind bars longer and holds a state financially accountable if it fails to do so. In addition, it allows interstate parole violators to be jailed in their state of residence at the expense of the state where the original offense was committed. Furthermore, it permits for offenders to be jailed in another state if circumstances allow it.

A small roadside memorial on the exit ramp from Interstate 476 to southbound U.S. Route 1 marks the site where Aimee Willard’s car was found.

US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the sport in the United States, established the Aimee Willard Award. Created in conjunction with Aimee’s mother, her high school coach, and the Philadelphia Women’s Lacrosse Association, the award is given each year in recognition of the outstanding collegiate athlete participating in the USWLA National Tournament.

George Mason University honors Aimee with the yearly Aimee Willard Commemorative Award, presented to the Mason student-athlete who best exemplifies the standards of quality set by Aimee: intensity, consistency of purpose, achievement, and teamwork. 


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Further Reading:

• Cold Case Files

• Philadelphia Inquirer

• Unsolved Mysteries

• Washington Post


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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas. Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


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Justice Still Bare


On the night of January 15, 1984, Sherry Hart, a 24-year-old single mother, was stood up for a date. It would be the last time she would be stood up because she never made it home. Thirty-six years later, her killer still walks free.

A witness came forward, claiming to have seen Hart joyriding with two former schoolmates on the night of her disappearance, Richard Bare and Jeffrey Burgess. Both men had several brushes with the law and were known as local troublemakers.

Police questioned Bare and Burgess separately about the events of the evening. Bare was evasive and provided little information, but not Burgess. He spilled the story, and it didn’t match Bare’s account.

Based on eyewitness accounts, as well as what Burgess told police, the death of Sherry Hart was ruled a homicide. Police now believed they knew how the young mother died on that chilly evening in January 1984.

Burgess told police he and Bare encountered Sherry at the restaurant. Because she was upset over being stood up, they offered to take her for a night of drinking to forget about it. It seemed like a nice thing to do.

While the three were riding through the rural countryside, Sherry needed to stop and go to the bathroom. They pulled to the side of the road, approximately a quarter of a mile from the “Jumping Off Place,” where she went into the woods to relieve herself.

According to Burgess, he remained in the car as Bare followed Sherry into the woods, where he attempted to have sex with her. Bare became irate as Sherry rejected his repeated attempts. When he became violent, Sherry fought him off and, screaming and crying, ran back to the car. Burgess said Bare followed Sherry and struck her on her head with the back of a handgun, leaving her bleeding and semi-conscious. Burgess said Bare then shoved Sherry into the car and ordered him into the car. Bare drove to the “Jumping Off Place,” where he forced Sherry from the vehicle, and ordered Burgess to drive away but to return in five minutes.

Burgess contended he was afraid for Sherry and at first refused to leave. However, he claimed Bare threatened to kill his family if Burgess didn’t comply. Burgess said he drove away because he feared Bare would make good on his threats.

Police believe Bare dragged Sherry to the edge of the “Jumping Off Place” and pushed her over the cliff. When Burgess returned, he asked Bare where Sherry was. Bare said she was gone and again warned Burgess to say nothing.

On March 29, 1985, Richard Bare and Jeffrey Burgess were both arrested and charged with the murder of Sherry Hart. Both were denied bail and were held in the Wilkes County Jail awaiting trial.

On July 18, deputies found the cell bare of one of the prisoners. Police subsequently discovered Richard Bare’s sister Linda was in a relationship with one of the department’s deputies. It is believed she convinced the deputy, who had gone to high school with Bare, to help her brother escape.

Over thirty-four-years later, Richard Bare remains at large.

After several months passed without Bare’s being captured and thus delaying the trial, an arrangement was made in which Jeffrey Burgess was released on bail, pending Bare’s re-capture. That day never came.

Jeffrey Burgess died at age 47 in 2012, without ever standing trial for the murder of Sherry Hart. It may be challenging to make a case against Bare if he is captured because what Burgess told police might now be considered hearsay.

Some people believe Burgess understated his involvement in the crime and could have been the one who pushed Sherry off the cliff. Unfortunately, it is likely impossible to tell which man did the actual act.

Richard Bare was nearly captured in Delaware in 1993, but good fortune, unfortunately, was on his side. He left only hours before FBI agents converged on the home of a relative where he had been hiding.

In June of 2002, Bare was believed to be living under the name Richard Presnell. The real Richard Presnell was located and determined not to be Bare. Bare may have stolen his identity and lived under the name for several years before changing identities again.

Over approximately the last 15 years, Bare has been rumored to have returned, incognito, several times to North Carolina to attend the funerals of friends and relatives. Police have also received reports that Bare is living similarly to another notorious North Carolina fugitive, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph. He eluded capture for six-and-a-half years by living in the area’s vast mountainous terrain.

Some sources say Bare is disguising himself by dressing as a woman. The computer-aged image of Bare below was done in 1996 when he would have been 32-years-old. I have not been able to find any more aged-enhanced images.

Richard Lynn Bare is wanted on a charge of murder. He is 5’8″ tall. When he escaped from jail in 1985, he weighed 175 pounds and had shoulder-length brown hair. He may have a tattoo of a panther on his right forearm. Bare hated the smell of smoke and refused to be in the company of people who lit up.

Richard Bare would today be 56-years-old. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Ashe County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Department at 336-846-5633 or the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, Field Office at 704-672-6100.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info
America’s Most Wanted
• Unsolved Mysteries
Wilkes Journal-Patriot, Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Winston-Salem Journal


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


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