Arrest made, charges filed in Pennsylvania slaying of pregnant Amish woman

A Pennsylvania man was arrested Saturday and charged with the slaying of a pregnant Amish woman whose body was found last week.

Shawn C. Cranston, 52, of Corry, has been charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, according to court documents.

He was denied bail at a preliminary arraignment early Saturday morning and is being held at the Crawford County jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled March 15; no defense attorney was listed and a number listed for Cranston was not in service. Calls and emails were made Saturday to state police, the district attorney and the public defender's office.

Cranston's arrest comes less than a week after authorities found the body of Rebekah A. Byler, 23, in the living room of her home a few miles from Spartansburg.

Police said she appeared to have cutting wounds to her neck and head, and a criminal complaint accuses the defendant of killing the victim by "shooting her in the head and/or slashing her throat." A court spokesperson said an affidavit providing details of what police believe occurred would be released later along with other documents.

The killing shocked the rural community in northwestern Pennsylvania, where people say the Amish get along well with their neighbors in the area.

Police began their investigation Feb. 26 after Byler's husband, Andy Byler, found her body inside the home shortly after noon.

Trooper Cynthia Schick told The Associated Press on Thursday the investigation and autopsy have given police an idea of what murder weapon may have been used. Two young Byler children at the home were not harmed, Schick has said.

The Bylers' home is located along a dirt road in a very remote farming area. Scores of Amish turned out for calling hours Thursday evening at a home in the community. Many arrived by buggies lit by headlights along the narrow country roads.

Residents said the Amish had a longstanding presence in the area and mix well with the surrounding community. Amish and non-Amish visit each other’s homes, and the Amish work jobs for the non-Amish and attend events like the fish fries, they said. Neighbors have been raising money to help the Byler family.

The Amish generally follow basic Christian beliefs and practices but are not homogeneous, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. They are known for simple clothing and for relying on horses and buggies for transportation. Local congregations maintain a variety of rules and restrictions regarding dress, the use of technology and participation in American society.

The overall Amish population is nearly 400,000 people in hundreds of settlements across 32 states, Canada and Bolivia. Pennsylvania has one of the greatest concentrations of Amish.