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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Mother of slain 2-year-old speaks out as killer's execution warrant is signed

Reported By: Jackalyn Kovac
Written By: Marc Stempka

EBENSBURG, Pa. -- Twenty-five years ago, a 2-year-old Clearfield County girl was raped and murdered by a man who took her from her bedroom in the middle of the night. Now, decades later, the pain felt by the girl's mother is still very deep, despite hearing news that the man who killed her little girl may be put to death.

Bobbi Jo Matthew was taken from the bedroom of the home where she was staying with her father and grandmother near Janesville the night of Oct. 4, 1988. Soon after, the girl was found dead in a rural part of Reade Township, in northeastern Cambria County, and police had made an arrest in the case.

Police arrested and charged Stephen Rex Edmiston, originally of Huntingdon County, with the kidnapping, rape and murder of Bobbi Jo. In 1989, a Cambria County jury sentenced him to death after being found guilty in a bench trial at the courthouse in Ebensburg.

Edmiston, now 55, has been on death row in a state prison in Greene County since then. On Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett signed Edmiston's death warrant, scheduling him to die by lethal injection on April 16.

Despite the passage of time, Sheri O'Dell, Bobbi Jo's mother, has vivid memories of her little girl. Choking back tears and emotion, O'Dell told 6 News reporter Jackalyn Kovac about the phone call she received, telling her Edmiston's death warrant was signed.

"I don't know how I feel about it," O'Dell said. "I know when it happens I want to be there. But I don't know what it's going to do to me to see him again."

Police said at about 3:30 a.m. that morning in 1988, Edmiston, who had a beard and was wearing a baseball cap, entered the home where Bobbi Jo was living. Edmiston woke up the girl's father, Harold Matthew, who was asleep on the couch. Edmiston apologized for waking him, and Matthew went back to sleep.

Bobbi Jo lived in the home with her father, her grandmother, Nancy Dotts, and several other children.

A short time after waking up Matthew, two children noticed a man with a beard and baseball cap enter their bedroom, walk near where Bobbi Jo was sleeping and talk to her, investigators said. The children said the man left the room but returned, whispered something to Bobbi Jo, and again left the room.

Police said several minutes later, a vehicle was seen leaving the home.

That morning at about 5:30 a.m., Dotts returned home and didn't see Bobbi Jo in the bedroom with the other children, investigators said.

Dotts woke up the girl's father and the other children, who all described the man they saw. Dotts recognized the description of the man, whom she knew as Edmiston, Dotts' boyfriend's nephew.

Police found and interviewed Edmiston. Investigators said he admitted that he took Bobbi Jo and then drew a map of an area in remote Cambria County where he said he took her. He drew an X over the location and said that's where authorities would find "a dead, raped little girl."

Police said Edmiston admitted to raping the girl in his truck and hitting her until she quit moving.

"I want to talk to the man and ask him why," O'Dell said. "That question has been going through my mind so much. Why would you do something like that? Why?"

Police searched Edmiston's pickup truck and found blood on a seat belt of the driver's side and on the middle of the bench seat, a blood-stained towel, bloody scissors and a pair of purple shorts that matched what Bobbi Jo was wearing when she disappeared, investigators said.

Police said after recovering Bobbi Jo's body they found she suffered serious injuries, many of which evidence showed she suffered while she was still alive. Investigators said she was scalped, suffered blunt force trauma to her torso, obliteration of her genital area, parts of her body burned and a skull fracture.

"She was our baby, she was an innocent little girl," O'Dell said. "She was beautiful with blonde hair and blue eyes, she was her dad's joy and she was mine."

Over the years, Edmiston tried to appeal his conviction, asking for his case to be reopened and claimed DNA testing would clear his name.

"You're not suppose to kill people, but he killed my daughter," O'Dell said. "So am I wrong for wanting to see him die? No, I dont think I am."

Edmiston's death warrant is the 31st of Corbett's gubernatorial term, but none of the executions have been carried out. To date, only three people have been executed in Pennsylvania since 1976, and all three happened under former Gov. Tom Ridge, with the last one happening in 1999.

"I just want it to be over, [but] it's never going to be over," O"Dell said.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times