Joline Faye Witt was born to Lindsey and Linda Witt on Feb. 18, 1987. Joline’s parents divorced in 1994, and her father had custody of her and her older siblings, Lindsey Jr, 12, and Cassie, 11. Joline lived with her father and siblings in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Their mother, Linda Longenecker, lived in nearby Muncy and had visitation rights with the children.
On Saturday, July 26, 1997, Joline, 10, visited her mother for the weekend. At the time, Longenecker lived with her brother, Bruce Longenecker, and his family, including his wife, Christine, and their five children.
Joline went to bed around midnight on July 27. Her cousin slept next to her in the same bed. Christine Longenecker checked on the girls around 3:00 a.m. and then went to sleep. An hour later, Longenecker’s screams awoke everyone in the house; Joline was not in her bed. The front and back doors to the home were open, and Joline was nowhere to be found.
A quick search for the girl on Sunday and Monday produced no evidence of her whereabouts or who took her. Joline’s father, Lindsey Witt, participated in the search. Both he and Longenecker were not considered suspects in Joline’s disappearance.
The investigative team consisted of 23 full-time investigators from several nearby towns, the FBI, and Pennsylvania State Police.
The following Tuesday, a helicopter equipped with infrared detectors flew over adjacent fields, and a search dog went through a nearby deserted barn. Late Tuesday, divers searched a section of the Susquehanna River (Raphael, 1997).
Police had zero suspects in the case, and any leads or tips led nowhere.
Around 3:30 pm on Sept. 6, 1997, hikers found a badly decomposed body in a densely wooded area along route 554 on Bald Eagle Mountain, about 3-5 miles south of Williamsport.
Williamsport Water Authority owned the land, but hikers and mountain bikers could use it if registered with the agency.
Four days later, the body was identified as Joline Witt. The autopsy report stated cause of death was homicide by violence. Police said they had a few possible suspects but did not release further details. More recent reports state Joline was either strangled or smothered.
Meanwhile, Muncy residents began pointing fingers at the Longeneckers.
Longenecker had a protection from abuse order against Witt. He countered with a similar order against her after the September 3, 1997 incident.
Around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 3, Longenecker arrived at Witt’s Williamsport home and began kicking and pounding on the door. Witt woke up and opened the door to Longnecker holding a .25 caliber black Beretta and threatening him.
Witt grabbed her wrist, and the two struggled. He then grabbed her throat and held her in a headlock. Longenecker responded by saying, “Go ahead and hit me so I can shoot you.”
As police arrived at the house, Witt threw the gun over the railing and onto the ground. Police cited Longenecker with disorderly conduct.
She told the police she was upset because she had not seen her two other children. She was supposed to see the kids twice a week. Witt said the kids were scared after Joline disappeared and did not want to visit their mother.
Immediately after the recovery of Joline’s body, her uncle, Bruce Longenecker, moved his family to Speculator, New York. Pennsylvania authorities were going to interview him again regarding Joline’s murder, and he was aware of this.
On Nov. 4, 1997, Bruce Longenecker shot himself in the head. A family member called an ambulance to the home at 3:32 p.m. When police arrived, they found him lying on the bed with a .38 caliber revolver.
Authorities said then that his suicide was unrelated to Joline’s case; he had been struggling with depression for years.
But Bruce Longenecker had been a suspect from the very beginning. A 1999 Grand Jury hearing revealed that the Longenecker house was locked on the night of Joline’s abduction, and Bruce Longenecker had gone to bed in his underwear. But when Longenecker’s screams woke everyone in the house, the entry doors were open, and Bruce wore jeans.
There was no sign of forced entry into the home.
Investigators, which included the FBI and Muncy police, learned numerous times Longenecker had made crude remarks about Joline’s anatomy and had touched her inappropriately. DNA tests linked sperm on the pillow cover on Joline’s bed and material on her comforter to Longenecker (Beauge, 2015).
In 2015, Lycoming County Detective Kenneth L. Mains reviewed the case and believed someone else was responsible for Joline’s murder. Police may have identified the wrong person as the killer. Mains did not provide further details about who he thought killed Joline or what led him to that conclusion.
No one has ever been charged with Joline Witt’s murder. Witt passed away in 2014. It is unclear what happened to Longenecker or Joline’s older siblings.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I think Bruce Longenecker killed Joline Witt. Whoever killed her lived in that house; there’s no doubt in my mind about that. If it wasn’t him, who else could it have been? One of his children? Linda, her mother? Bruce, Christine, and his children, Linda and Joline, were the only people in that house.
Bruce’s kids were really young at the time of Joline’s murder, so it wasn’t any of them. So, that leaves Bruce, Christine, and Linda.
Bruce’s se*en was found on Joline’s pillowcase. While this does not prove he killed her, it does prove he was a sick person and capable of anything, in my opinion.
Police know he molested her before her death. I think he kidnapped her to fulfill his ultimate fantasy of raping her. He took her out of the home, so no one would hear or see anything. Maybe she threatened to tell her dad or the police, so he killed her. Or that was the plan all along.
The man moved his family to a different state RIGHT AFTER Joline’s body was found. Bruce knew authorities would interview him again in New York and then killed himself.
Joline went to bed at midnight, slightly late for a 10-year-old girl. Christine stayed up until 3 a.m. and checked on the girls. There is no mention of whether Bruce was in the home at this time or not, but Christine would have covered for him, I bet.
Linda said she woke up an hour later at 4 a.m., and Joline was gone. There’s no way Bruce could have taken Joline, killed her, disposed of the body, and returned to bed within one hour.
Someone in that house killed her. He or she could not have done all of that in 1 hour. People in that house lied, especially about the times.
Linda had a breakdown after her daughter’s death, and family members put her on suicide watch, but I think Linda’s breakdown resulted from more than just her daughter’s death. I think she knew who killed Joline.
Raphael, Michael. “Girl’s Mysterious Disappearance Befuddles Search Teams in Muncy.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 30, 1997.