Two teenage girls were killed on June 15, 1955 while walking to pick up a report card at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
The murder of Nancy Marie Shomette, 16, and Michael Ann Ryan, 14, shocked the neighborhood, and led to one of the most extensive police investigations in local history. On June 15, that investigation was brought to a close.
Police now believe two brothers, Edward H. Dobek and John M. Dobek, were at the murder scene, and that one or both of them were responsible for the murder, said Lt. Michael McQuillan of the Prince George's County police department.
The girls were walking through an open field around 8 a.m. June 15 when they were shot 15 times by a .22-caliber rifle. The victims' bodies were then dragged into a wooded area in an attempt to hide them, Police Chief John Farrell said.
They were discovered around 4 p.m. the same day by an individual walking their dog, Farrell said.
Edward Dobek died of cancer on April 26, 1996, and John Dobek died of cancer on June 23, 1996, Farrell said.
Six months after John Dobek died, his widow, Jean Dobek, called police to tell them she had information about the 1955 double murder. Jean Dobek said that in 1972 her husband had brought her to the Northwest Branch Park and showed her where the girls had died. Furthermore, Jean Dobek said that in 1993 Edward Dobek, believing that he was about to die, had confessed to the murders.
Edward Dobek recovered, and John Dobek made Jean Dobek swear that she would wait until they both had died before making the information public, McQuillan said.
Jean Dobek shared with police "specific information that could only have been known to an individual at the scene of the crime," including information that had never been released, such as the location of the gunman and a keepsake that had been stolen from one of the girls, Farrell said.
At the time of the murder, the two Dobek brothers lived four or five blocks from the murder scene. John Dobek was questioned by police, but never identified as a suspect. Within a year of the murder, their family had moved to Florida.
There had been a general sense in Jean Dobek's account that one of the brothers had received some sort of rebuff from one or both of the girls, Farrell said. John Dobek owned a used .22-caliber rifle at the time of the murder, but that rifle has never been recovered, Farrell said.
Police sent investigators to destinations as far away as Alaska, Florida, and Nevada and used voice stress analysis as they attempted to verify the information passed on to them by Jean Dobek, Farrell said. They also wrote to all 900 members of the school's graduating class.
"We have done everything we can possibly do to check out every possible aspect of this tip," Farrell said.
The Dobeks went on to lead troubled lives marred by fraud and other encounters with the law, Farrell said.
"Our sense from all the follow up is that they were both troubled significantly over their lives," Farrell said.
The investigation into the 1955 shooting was conducted by the Prince George's County police's cold case squad, a special division dedicated to revisiting old unsolved cases.
The cold case squad has re-opened 128 murder cases since 1997, and closed 47 of those cases, McQuillan said.
One homicide investigation that Prince George's County police are continuing to pursue is the murder of Nia Aisha Owens, 14.
On November 20, 1996 Owens was found slain in a wooded area just south of Northwestern High School. Police have developed no new leads in her case, said Corporal Joe Merkel, a spokesperson for the county police department.
Anyone with information about her death is asked to call 301-735-1111 or 1-800-673 1111.