CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A man serving a life sentence for murder in Ohio will be charged in a 1972 shooting death along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Franklin County, prosecutors announced Friday.
District Attorney Matthew Fogal said he has approved the filing of a criminal complaint charging Larry Via with first-degree murder and robbery in the killing of Morgan Peters.
Peters was a nationally recognized wrestler who grew up in Allentown and sold exercise equipment. On Sept. 17, 1972, the 29-year-old father of three left his home in New York and headed for Latrobe.
On Sept. 20, his body was found along the Turnpike in Metal Township, near the Willow Hill exit. He had been shot in the back. His red Ford pickup truck was found 18 miles down the road.
Via became a person of interest in 2009 when investigators conducting a case review discovered he had been involved in shootings and robberies while traveling through Ohio and Kentucky in 1972.
During one of the robberies on Sept. 4, 1972, Ohio gas station owner Harvey Hoffman was tied up and shot in the head after stopping to help a pair of hitchhikers. He survived and identified Via and Charmaine Phillips as the pair who robbed and shot him.
On Sept. 22, 1972, just days after Peters was killed, Via raped and fatally shot Jane Maguire at an Ohio rest stop. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, Phillips told police she and Via often pretended they were hitchhiking or in need of a ride to get people to pull off roads. She said Via had long hair at the time, so people thought they were stopping for women.
She recalled traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Via in 1972. She said at one point, Via asked her to pull to the side of the road. When another vehicle stopped behind them, Phillips said Via got out of the car for a few minutes then returned and said, “We gotta go.”
She said she did not hear a gunshot, but Via followed her in the other vehicle and they pulled off the road after a few miles.
When Via was arrested for the Ohio shootings in November 1972, police found a wallet with a business card for a Pennsylvania gas station and a black Panasonic radio among his belongings. A black Panasonic radio was missing from Peters’ truck.
Two ex-wives of Via previously told investigators that he wrote poems and short stories for Easy Rider magazine using the pseudonym ‘Jody Via.’
In June 1989, a submission of Via’s to Easy Rider magazine entitled “Moonlit Ride” described a location and incident similar to the Jane Maguire murder. In October 1988, a submission of Via’s to Easy Rider magazine entitled “Payback in Full” described an incident similar to the Harvey Hoffman attempted murder, authorities said.
In September 1985, Outlaw Biker magazine published another of Via’s writings entitled “Dangerous Dave.” Via wrote about a “hitchhiking cutie” with pigtails who lured a man to stop for her. As the driver approached her on foot, a “cold” voice from behind a tree told the man to stop and not “move a muscle.” ‘Dangerous Dave’ then describes the shooter approaching the man and “ready to shoot.”