Police: 18-year-old Was An Apprentice Hit Man

Posted: May 02, 1995

STEVENSVILLE, Pa. — William E. Curley was an unemployed high school dropout looking for direction. Police said a friend of Curley's father's offered him training for a new career: hit man.

Curley, 18, told state police he fatally shot Regina Clark and her 9-year- old son on April 18 in Rome, Pa., near the Pennsylvania-New York border, as part of his training as a hit man. He said John J. Koehler Jr., 34, of Blackwood, N.J., provided him with the gun and helped him carry out the slayings.

"Mr. Curley was being groomed as a contract killer," state police trooper Peter Salerno said yesterday.

Both men were arrested Saturday, Curley in Goldsboro, N.C., and Koehler at his sister's home in Voorhees.

Koehler waived extradition yesterday in a brief court appearance in Camden, N.J., and Curley also agreed to be extradited to Pennsylvania. The are to be arraigned on two counts of murder and several other charges as soon as they arrive in Bradford County, District Attorney Robert Fleury said.

Clark, 31, was shot three times in the head and had two knife slashes and a puncture wound on her neck. A man collecting cans at a dump near Stevensville found her body Wednesday stuffed in an old refrigerator.

Her son, Austin Wade Hopper, was also shot three times. His body was found Saturday after Curley told state troopers that he had dumped the boy in a pipe under a road in Bradford County, about 10 miles from Clark's body.

Curley admitted his role in the slayings to two Pennsylvania state troopers who interviewed him in North Carolina Saturday, according to an affidavit filed in Bradford County District Court.

"Curley stated that Koehler held the boy while Curley killed the female victim," the affidavit said. "Curley said the boy was shot after the female was killed." The shootings occurred in a garage in Rome, police said.

Curley lived with friends in Rome and attended Northeast Bradford High School last year before dropping out. Neither of Curley's parents lives in the county, Fleury said.

"He is a drifter-type person," Fleury said. "He often stayed with friends."

Curley had visited Koehler, a former truck driver and friend of Curley's father, in Cherry Valley, Ark., earlier this year, Salerno said. Clark was also living in Cherry Valley and was Koehler's girlfriend, according to police.

Curley returned to Bradford County and Koehler, Clark and Hopper came later. The four of them stayed at the home of Melissa Mack in Stevensville, Salerno said.

Mack called the state police when she heard about the discovery of an unidentified corpse fitting Clark's description. Salerno said Mack and other witnesses helped state police track down Koehler and Curley.

Koehler is wanted on auto theft charges in Colorado and Maryland, a bad check charge in New Jersey, and a parole-violation charge in Doylestown.

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