Who Killed Patty Rebholz?

Cheerleader Went To A Dance On Aug. 8, 1963

Thirty-nine years have passed since a 15-year-old high school cheerleader, Patty Rebholz, was brutally strangled and beaten to death. The murder remains unsolved but her town, Greenhills, Ohio, can't forget her.

Correspondent Harold Dow reports that prosecutors revisited the case in 1999 with the hope that new scientific techniques would make a difference. In addition, a judge who greatly influenced the case has passed away.
People in this quiet small town talk about the 1963 murder as if it happened yesterday.

"If somebody can hear a window break in this community, how can they not hear what happened?" a patron in a Greenhills post office recently asked.

To some extent, the murder changed Greenhills forever, according to Patty's brother Mel Rebholz: "People realized there's evil out in the world," he said.

He described the sister, who was three years his junior, as "perfect in every way, good-looking, sharp, popular, friendly, very warm heart."

His parents were devastated, Mel Rebholz added. "It was the saddest thing to see. Neither one ever fully recovered from that night."

Richard Kuhlman was just 8 years old when Patty was murdered and he never got over it. "It was like the first big scare of your life," Kuhlman said. "And everybody talked about it. It was the big ghost story of growing up."

Kuhlman grew up and left Greenhills for Hollywood to become an actor. But the ghost story from his childhood remained an obsession. He decided to find out what happened.

"I took the story that was, you know, dusty on the shelves and forgotten about," he said. "And I explored it, and I found something worth talking about again."

Kuhlman investigated Patty's unsolved murder. He looked at the evidence, he interviewed witnesses and now he's writing a screenplay about it. 48 Hours brought Kuhlman back to Greenhills to discuss what he discovered.

Patty Rebholz went to a dance on Aug. 8, 1963.

"She got here about 8 o'clock, and there would just be kids dancing," Kuhlman said. "It was a summer kind of tradition, every Thursday night....And around 9:30, she called Mike Wehrung."

Fifteen-year-old Mike Wehrung was a football player at Greenhills High School who was dating Patty. Mike had told Patty not to go to the dance.

"He didn't like coming up here, and he didn't want her to be up here, you know, on her own" Kuhlman said. "Jealousy, I guess."

Mike was at home that night with friends. After Patty called, the friends went out but Mike stayed. Shortly after 9:30 p.m., Patty left the dance and started the 15-minute walk to Mike's house.

"She was swinging her purse, you know, appeared to be in a pretty good mood as she was walking down here to Michael's from the dance," Kuhlman said.

She was alone.

Patty never arrived at Mike's house. She didn't make it past a nearby back yard. What happened next no one really knows. But hours later, when she hadn't come home, Patty's father called police, and a frantic search began. At one point, Patty's brother Mel searched with Mike.

"He got in the car, was acting kind of strange-like," Mel Rebholz recalled. "He was going to help us look....But I think he was only with us for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then he wanted to go back to his house."

At 5:30 the next morning, police found Patty's body in the back yard across the street from Mike's home. She had been strangled and beaten, apparently with a fence post.

Patty's father broke the news to the rest of the family: "He walked in the house, probably about 6 in the morning, and said she was dead. At that point we just went crazy," Mel Rebholz recalled.

According to what Kuhlman has learned, Mike had a different reaction to the news: "Michael came out on his porch and looked across at what was going on. There was a body being covered, and there were police around...and somebody went over and said to Michael, 'Hey, that's Patty's body.' He didn't come over to investigate. He went inside and went to bed."

"Strange behavior for a person that was, you know, five hours earlier driving around with her brother, looking for her," Kuhlman said.

Diana Rabert, Mel Rebholz's high-school sweetheart, spoke with Mike that morning.

"He said that Jack Leach, who was the police officer who found her, was trying to pin it on him, and of course, I was shocked - how could he think that?" Rabert said. "And then he said he'd been working on the car the day before, and he had a scratch on his arm, and he said he had wiped it on his pants. And he said Mr. Leach had taken his jeans."

"Then he told me he had gone to meet her," Rabert said. "And he said he'd walked over there, and I remember he said he practically walked past the body."

In a 1963 news report, police said the blood on Mike's jeans matched Patty's blood type. Police seemed to be zeroing in on a suspect.

Police said he didn't perform well on lie detector tests.

A 1963 investigator said on TV: "The lie detector tests which have been administered to Michael Wehrung yesterday and today have led us to conclude that Michael Wehrung is attempting deception."

Mel Rebholz also suspected Mike: "Well, after we put two and two together and started thinking about exactly what had happened, there was no doubt in our mind who had done it," he said.

But then came a shock: A juvenile court judge, Benjamin Schwartz, ordered police to stop questioning Mike. Schwartz then sent Mike to a North Carolina military academy.

At the time when Mike was made a ward of the court, he was being investigated for murder, said Richard Kuhlman's mother Carole, who now works at the post office. The investigation came to a stop, she said, adding, "The police in Greenhills were so frustrated."

Judge Schwartz, who has since died, reportedly made his controversial decision because he believed police had improperly questioned Mike.

"He really obstructed justice by doing something like that," said Mel Rebholz. "And I can't explain or understand why he made that kind of decision. But we've all had to live with it for 37 years."

The 1963 investigation grew cold; no charges were filed. And that's where the case stood - until 1999.

Using old evidence and new techniques, prosecutors revived the case, hoping to finally solve the murder of Patty Rebholz.

Find out what happened.
  • David Kohn

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