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Man accused in death of pregnant Amish woman in northwest Pennsylvania

Shawn Cranston

SPARTANSBURG, Pa. — A northwestern Pennsylvania man is accused in the death of a pregnant Amish woman and her unborn child on Feb. 26, authorities said.

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Shawn C. Cranston, 52, of Corry, was arrested early Saturday and charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, the Erie Times-News reported.

Cranston is accused in the death of Rebekah A. Byler, 23, at her home in Sparta Township in Crawford County, according to the newspaper.

According to a news release from the Pennsylvania State Police, Byler’s body was discovered by her husband and a family friend at 12:26 p.m. EST on Feb. 26. According to a criminal complaint, Cranston is accused of killing Byler “by shooting her in the head and/or slashing her throat,” The Meadville Tribune reported.

A trooper wrote that a laceration was observed on the front side of Byler’s neck, and she had a “scalping-type wound” on her head, according to the Times-News.

Two “toddler-age children” were also inside the residence but were not injured, state police said.

It was unclear what led state police to identify Cranston as a suspect, according to the Times-News. According to the news release from the state police, Cranston had been identified after “an exhaustive five-day investigation.”

The criminal complaint filed in the case did not include an affidavit of probable cause, the Times-News reported.

“Investigative leads which led to evidence collection is what led to the arrest,” Trooper Cindy Schick, a public information officer with the state police, told the Tribune in an email on Saturday.

Titusville District Judge Amy Nicols placed Cranston in the Crawford County Correctional Facility without bond after arraigning him at 4:24 a.m. EST Saturday, according to the Times-News.

“Everyone is stunned -- this doesn’t happen here,” Spartansburg resident Charleen Hajec told ABC News. “Everyone is talking. It’s scary and frustrating.

“The outside world doesn’t get in,” said Hajec, who told the news outlet that she was born and raised in the area. “To have something this tragic ... it doesn’t happen here.”

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