Midstate Mysteries: The Murder of the Traveling Salesman

On Morgan Peters’ gravestone, it says “Too well loved to ever be forgotten.” But for Peters’ son, Michael Carni, it’s the remembering that’s tougher.

He admits he has no real memories of his father.

“When my father died, it was September,” Carni said. “I was going to be three that following November.”

Nearly 42 years ago, Carni’s father was violently taken from him during a routine business trip.

Peters was a nationally-recognized wrestler who qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1960’s. The Allentown-area native never competed, however, due to injury. At the time of his death, he was 30-years-old and married with three kids. He was living on Long Island and selling exercise equipment; a job that required him to travel to Pennsylvania and Ohio frequently.

On September 17, 1972, Peters left his home in Bay Shore, New York en route to Latrobe, Pa. The traveling salesman never arrived.

In the early morning hours of September 18, police said Peters stopped at a truck stop in Carlisle for a meal.

“We have a Pa. Turnpike ticket that shows he entered the Turnpike at the Carlisle interchange between 2:00 and 2:12 in the morning,” Trooper Jeffrey Baney said.

About five hours later, at 7 a.m., Peters’ truck was ticketed on the side of the Turnpike near the Sideling Hill rest stop in Fulton County. Several of its windows had been smashed.

It then became apparent to the police – and to Peters’ family – that he was missing.

Two days later, on September 20, two college students stopped on the side of the Turnpike to relieve themselves near the Willow Hill exit in Franklin County and discovered Peters body. He had been shot once in the torso.

The body was found 18 miles away from where the truck had been discovered. Both were found on the westbound side of the road, with the body being found closer to the Carlisle interchange.

Despite finding $200 in Peters’ breast pocket, police said there was evidence that he had been robbed, including a missing Rolex watch.

“It could have been a robbery gone bad,” Baney said. “The theories on this are endless.”

Police said they can’t say for sure why Peters was killed. They said they couldn’t find any evidence to suggest someone would want to harm him, so they are operating under the theory that the killing was random; perhaps a robbery gone wrong.

Police said Peters could have picked up a hitchhiker. He could have stopped to help someone on the side of the road who appeared to have car trouble. Or, they said, he could have stopped to sleep and was attacked.

“Why is the truck there?” Baney asked. “Why are the windows broken? Why is he here? A lot of whys in this investigation.”

“There’s a whole bunch of stories of what could have happened,” Carni said. “We’re trying to find out what did happen.”

Despite so many unanswered questions, both Carni and Baney remain committed to the case.

“It’s number one in my book,” Baney said. “I don’t care that it happened in 1972. In my head it happened yesterday.”

“We’ve all had issues growing up with this burden,” Carni said of himself and his two grown sisters. “It’s a difficult thing to deal with day to day.”

Carni said the pain his family feels at the loss of his father is still very real and very raw.

“But I can tell you for my family and my mother…it’s like it was yesterday,” Carni said.

He would give anything, he said, to know his father and to know what really happened to him.

“We try to go day by day with our own lives, but in the background it’s still there,” he said.

Anyone with information about the murder of Morgan Peters is asked to contact Trooper Jeffrey Baney at 717-264-5161.

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