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New Book About 1940s PSU Football And Rachel Taylor Murder To Be Released

From the author of 2011’s best-selling “Who Killed Betsy? Uncovering Penn State University’s Most Notorious Unsolved Crime” comes the latest nonfiction exploration of a Penn State unsolved murder — the 1940 murder of freshman co-ed Rachel Taylor.

As the Great Depression hit the country, Penn State College was in a precarious position. Recently-appointed College President Ralph Hetzel had inherited a campus in such poor condition that some of the buildings were almost uninhabitable. There was little money in the Colleges’ coffers to fix them, and even less in the cash-strapped State budget, which had been hit hard by the crashing demand for coal, lumber, and steel and the subsequent losses in tax revenues that followed.

The football program was similarly in a shambles, with a new coach, Bob Higgins, and with the College having recently adopted a “Purist Police” that eliminated academic scholarships for athletes, making Penn State a choice of last resort for most students.

In Western Pennsylvania, the State Highway Patrol and the State Police were fighting striking coal miners and steel workers, and losing the battle – in 1937, the National Guard had to be called in to restore order after a strike at Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown. There simply were not enough police to protect the entire state, and it was beginning to show.

In the midst of it all, someone started killing young women late at night, in the most horrific ways possible – including Rachel Taylor, the first Penn State student murdered in College history. Word began to spread that a “sex maniac” was on the loose.

Somehow, against all odds, Penn State College began to grow and thrive, becoming a University in a few years. The Nittany Lions developed into a world-class football team – one that would see have half-a-century without a losing season. And the State Highway Patrol and State Police would merge together, forming the Pennsylvania Motor Patrol, the precursor of the Pennsylvania State Police.

But the killer of Margaret Martin and Rachel Taylor; the man initially suspected of killing Faye Gates and attacking co-eds walking alone on State College streets at night, would never be caught. This is the story of how all of these agencies, coaches, College Presidents, and co-eds came together – and what happened when they did.

Coming Fall 2019 from McFarland/Exposit.

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