Local police asking for public’s help in solving double murder cold case


On September 12th, 1988 the bodies of 57-year-old Frederick Pauling and 37-year-old James Checkush, were found near Lily Pond Road in Hartford, Washington County. One man was shot to death, the other died from blows to the head.

Pauling, a retired psychology professor and Checkush an antiques dealer were both from New York City, but Pauling owned a summer home in Washington County on Dick Hill Road, a few miles away from where their bodies were found.

Shocked residents wondered who in this rural community would do this and the answer to that question has also eluded Investigators for more than 30 years.

“Several years ago we reopened the case. We re-interviewed every single person that was interviewed in the original investigation.” Senior Investigator Kristen Hardy of the Washington Co Sheriff’s Office says one of those people is Joel O’Keefe. Convicted in the mid 1990’s for raping a woman at knifepoint, O’Keefe grabbed national headlines when he led police on a 2 week manhunt after escaping custody. But, years before in 1988 O’Keefe knew Frederick Pauling well. Police say he and his father did work on Pauling’s summer home. “I would still consider him a person of interest.” says Hardy.

O’Keefe was released from prison in 2017, but was sent back after violating the terms of his parole. He has not faced any charges in connection with the double murder.

One other question lingers too. Is there a connection between the double homicide and the killing of Eric Creel? Creel was killed just weeks before and in the neighboring community of Cambridge.

1988 coverage of double murder

1988 coverage of Creel homicide cold case

1988 coverage of community reaction to Creel’s death

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