A Chimney Sweep Plays Dirty
(“A Case of the Flue,” Forensic Files)
It seems odd that someone with a strong enough work ethic to wriggle down a 20-foot-tall tunnel and clean away soot would later that same day kill a homeowner and steal her cash for an easy payday.
Or maybe it’s because chimney sweep Tim McEnany and his cousin Andrew Reischman had labored so hard for the $300 fee Kathryn Bishop paid them that he decided burglary looked like a better pursuit.
As a YouTube viewer named lonehorseman09 put it so eloquently:
“i owned a chimney sweeping business in western canada for 24 years and this is the type of lowlife you have working for you-fortunately for me nothing physical ever happened to any of my clients.”
Unlike the occasional Forensic Files episode that leaves viewers skeptical about the guilt of the convicted ( Jim Barton), “A Case of the Flue” presents a straight trajectory from the incriminating evidence to Tim McEnany.
Bundles of joy. That doesn’t mean McEnany has accepted his fate, however. The inmate has an unusually extensive innocence website. I’ll report on that later. First, here’s a recap of “A Case of the Flue,” along with other information from internet research.
Kathryn I. Bishop, an 82-year-old widow, lived alone in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, near the state capital of Harrisburg.
She liked to use cash to pay for groceries and had about $6,000 neatly wrapped in circular bundles in a basket on her dining room table. But McEnany was paid by check after he and Reischman cleaned Bishop’s chimney on March 3, 1993.
The next day, Bishop’s daughter, Janet Seitz, stopped by to visit, only to find an ambulance in her mother’s driveway.
Puzzle left behind. Bishop had been beaten to death — kicked more than 60 times by an intruder the night before. Wounds on her arms suggested that the retiree had fought back.
“There was a lot of trauma,” Graham Hetrick, Dauphin County coroner, was quoted as saying in a March 7, 1993 account in the News Record, a North Hills newspaper. “It’s a real pathetic case.”
Police found a word puzzle and a broken pen near the body. They also discovered a receipt from Ace American Chimney Experts, Tim McEnany’s business.
Clean oilman. A neighbor recalled seeing a man running from Bishop’s house the night before, but it was too dark to see his face.
Police started their investigation by questioning an oil company driver who had made a delivery to Bishop’s house on the day of her homicide. He had a solid alibi.
Investigators turned their attentions to the duo from the chimney sweep outfit.
Tim McEnany and Andrew Reischman’s story about their whereabouts the night of Bishop’s death seemed shaky from the outset.
‘Wagers’ of sin. The two claimed they were drinking at Shane’s Flight Deck in Middletown all night, but bartenders recalled that they left and came back at one point.
Cellular One records from McEnany’s massive 1990s-era cell phone showed he made two calls to Bishop’s house that night, both of them unanswered.
Police believed he was checking to make sure she was either asleep or out.
But the burglary turned into a robbery-murder when he (and probably Reischman) discovered Bishop home and wide awake. She was hard of hearing and often didn’t notice the phone ringing, her daughter said.
Loyal cousin. Investigators theorized that McEnany spontaneously decided to kill her and, when Reischman saw the violence, he fled in horror out the side door, in view of the neighbor who reported the sighting.
But apparently, Reischman still returned to the bar with McEnany.
An informant told Patriot-News reporter Peter Shellem that McEnany, then a 26-year-old married father of two, and Reischman, 20, drove to Atlantic City after they left the bar for the night.
McEnany never implicated Reischman, however, and investigators didn’t find strong enough evidence to tie him to the crime. McEnany alone was charged with robbery, second degree murder, and conspiracy.
Investigators had found a paint chip in McEnany’s clothing and discovered it came from the area around Bishop’s basement window, suggesting McEnany entered the house that way.
Little switcheroo. The defense team hired forensic scientist Skip Palenik to refute fiber evidence that investigators said tied McEnany’s black T-shirt to the murder scene.
But Palenik ended up agreeing with the prosecution’s theory — that the fiber evidence pointed to McEnany.
McEnany, who gave a semi-incriminating statement (“Every time I drink I get in trouble”) to the police upon his arrest, maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
On October 20, 1993, after deliberating for five hours, the jury found him guilty of robbery, conspiracy, and second-degree murder.
Chaos and histrionics. When the judge polled each jury member on every charge, McEnany had to hear the word “guilty” 48 times, which sent him over the edge, literally.
He screamed of injustice and tried to escape via a courtroom window.
Adept at scurrying through tight spaces, the 5-foot-8-inch-tall McEnany got halfway out before deputies dragged him back by the ankles, according to an account that appeared in the News-Press of Fort Myers, Florida (yes, the dramatics made news all the way from Pennsylvania to the Sunshine State).
He got life in jail without the possibility of parole.
Supporters persist. McEnany, who is now 51 years old, resides in Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution in Somerset along with 2,393 other inmates.
As mentioned, he does maintain a strong presence on the internet and clearly has some people convinced of his innocence. I’ll give his website a good read and also look for an epilogue on Reischman and discuss it in the next post.
Until then, cheers. — RR
Update: Read Part 2