Midstate Mysteries: The murder of Robert Potteiger

Almost 30 years ago, a Dauphin County man was found murdered in his car along Route 39 in West Hanover Township. All these years later, police are still searching for his killer.

Friends of the victim, Robert Potteiger, said they still think of him often.

“I think about him all the time,” one female friend who did not want to be identified told ABC 27. “It was just very unfair.”

It was December of 1985. Bob, as friends knew him, was 49-years-old and working at a used furniture store in Steelton. He was also, according to police, dealing marijuana.

“Very good-hearted person,” his friend said. “Very generous. Everyone loved him. Heads would turn when Bob walked into a room.”

A newspaper deliveryman discovered Bob’s body early on a Sunday morning. It was hanging out of his car which was parked next to a garage he rented along Route 39. He had been shot several times at close range.

“He was actually pretty much outside the driver’s side door,” State Police Trooper Robert Hicks said. “His feet were still inside the car. It was very indicative of the fact he was trying to escape out of the car as he was being shot at.”

Police believe whoever killed Bob was inside the car when they shot him. The keys were still in the ignition. Both doors were found open.

And what’s more, police said they found DNA inside Bob’s vehicle that could belong to the killer.

“We do have some foreign DNA that didn’t belong to the victim,” Hicks said. “We don’t know if that’s necessarily the DNA of our murderer, but it’s definitely something that has to be looked into a pursued.”

In the hours before his death, police said Bob had been trying to collect money from people who owed him for drugs.

They said he seemed desperate.

“Possibly he owed someone a large amount of cash that night and possibly that’s the person he met,” Hicks said. “Maybe he didn’t have enough money to pay up at that point and he ended up paying with his life.”

But police also have another theory. A few years before his murder, Bob was caught passing counterfeit money on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He avoided jail time by becoming a government witness in a federal trial.

“He decided to work with the federal government, become an informant, and try to bust up that counterfeit ring,” Hicks said. “He did that and that’s possibly one of our theories about what happened: somebody he turned an informant on, or turned in, maybe came back to get revenge.”

Police said people were scared to cooperate with them back in 1985 due to their own illegal activities. They said today they have no interest in prosecuting anyone except Bob’s killer.

“The players in this incident are obviously getting older, possibly even dead at this point,” Hicks said. “The window of opportunity is closing a little bit more each day.”

“I think all of us have sort of given up,” Bob’s friend told ABC 27. “It’s been 30 years. Maybe those perpetrators are even dead. It seems they got away with it, which is really, really wrong.”

She said her memories of Bob still invoke a great sadness.

“I understand that people are going to say, ‘who cares about a drug dealer,” she said, “but Bob was much more than that. He was a friend. He was a good son to his parents.”

Anyone with information about the murder of Robert Potteiger is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-472-8477. Tips can remain anonymous.

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