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Man Arrested After TV Program Featured 17-Year-Old Murder Case

June 1, 1987

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) _ A network television program on unsolved crimes led to the arrest of an elderly man sought in a 17-year-old killing, authorities said.

Wilford P. Cashman, 77, also known as Steven Vance and John Edward Burns, was arrested Saturday night outside his secluded log cabin in Blair County in central Pennsylvania, said police in Logan Township and Washtenaw County, Mich.

Logan Township Police Chief John Reeder said Cashman is wanted by authorities in Washtenaw County, near Detroit, on a first-degree murder charge in the 1970 shooting of his estranged girlfriend, Eleanor Farver.

After the case was featured on the NBC program ″Unsolved Mysteries,″ Altoona-area viewers called police in Michigan, who contacted local authorities, Reeder said.

Cashman ″has a reputation of being a loner and survivalist,″ Reeder said.

He was arraigned before District Justice John Greene on charges of being a fugitive from justice, authorities said.

An extradition hearing was scheduled for today to determine whether Cashman would be returned to Michigan for trial, authorities said.

It was the second arrest linked to the broadcast. Last week, in Arizona, authorities arrested a man wanted for questioning in the disappearances of four people in Nevada and California.

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Detective William Eskridge, who searched for Cashman for the past 12 years, joined Pennsylvania State Police and local police in arresting him.

″I advised him that I wanted to talk to him in reference to a 1970 murder of Eleanor Farver,″ Eskridge told The Detroit News. ″He looked at me kind of strange for a second, and then he says, ’Yeah, I remember that.‴

Eskridge said Cashman later confessed to the Sept. 22, 1970, death of Farver, who was shot while feeding chickens outside her Northfield Township home in Washtenaw County.

″I’m glad they finally got him, but it’s a little late now,″ Ms. Farver’s sister, Carolyn Ritchie of Wayne, Mich., told the News. She said Ms. Farver had gone to police for protection ″and they just turned their backs on her.″

A Pennsylvania native, Cashman fled to Michigan in 1946 after escaping from a state penitentiary where he was serving a sentence for attempted rape and murder, the newspaper said.

He then assumed the name John Edward Burns and became involved with Ms. Farver, a twice-divorced mother of six. After Ms. Farver’s death, he hid for 10 days in a barn within yards of the home before fleeing to Pennsylvania, living as a hermit and a handyman, the News said.

In Michigan, weeks after the slaying, police found a confession scrawled on boards inside the barn, the newspaper said.

″I shot the woman I loved,″ the writing on the boards said. ″Eleanor Farver - I was being made a fool. I rather see her dead, than for another have her.″

Cashman told police the shooting was an accident, Eskridge said.

″He said that she grabbed the gun barrel and jerked on the gun barrel and his finger was on the trigger and it went off,″ Eskridge said. ″He has a hard time explaining why it went off three times, but he denies intentionally killing her.″

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