For years, detectives had been trying to get Robert Sanders to talk about one of Bucks County's most infamous unsolved murders.

In 2004, they thought they broke him. During an interview, Sanders told them about the night back in 1984 when 14-year-old Barbara Rowan went missing.

Sanders admitted getting high that night with George Shaw, Rowan's neighbor who had used her as a babysitter. But he didn't elaborate.

The detectives, Michael Mosiniak and Chris McMullin, poked holes in the story, then challenged Sanders when he failed a lie-detector test.

"He said he wanted to tell the truth but he needed to first talk to his girlfriend," they later wrote.

Sanders promised to say more days later, but went silent. The detectives didn't give up, collecting more bits of evidence. Last month, they brought Sanders before a grand jury, and interviewed him again.

On Friday, came the payoff: Prosecutors announced they had charged Shaw with Rowan's 1984 rape and murder, a first step in closing a case that had haunted the community.

Officials credited the investigators who kept up the pressure.

"You can only remember a lie for so long," Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran said.

Shaw, detained in Florida, awaits transfer to Pennsylvania. Sanders, already jailed in Monroe County, is expected to be charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution.

According to charging papers, the account that Sanders allegedly spilled out last month to detectives and grand jurors went like this:

On that night in August 1984, Rowan came to Shaw's house to visit with his 3-year-old daughter. Sanders was there, and Shaw "slipped her a Mickey," or drugged Rowan before taking her into the bedroom.

Sanders allegedly told detectives that he soon heard a "ruckus" and "some banging around" from the bedroom before Shaw came out "panicked" and "sweaty."

"He said that in the over 100 times he used [methamphetamines] with George Shaw, he never saw him look like that," according to the criminal complaint.

Sanders said he saw Rowan in the bed but he couldn't tell if she was dead or alive, police said. Shaw then allegedly rushed to put her body into a trash bag, and the two men tossed it on the side of a nearby road.

The girl's disappearance, just weeks before the start of her freshman year at Bensalem High School, shook the community.

Police enlisted bloodhounds and state police helicopters. A self-proclaimed psychic came forward and said a man was keeping Rowan under his bed, feeding her scraps of food.

The decomposed corpse was found two weeks later.

Rowan's father, Bob Rowan, said police early on told him they had a suspect, but they didn't have enough evidence to charge him. They had lost the "poker game."

Months after the murder, Shaw was arrested - and later convicted - of sexually assaulting a 69-year-old woman in Montgomery County.

Still, the Rowan investigation continued. In 1980s and 1990s, Upper Moreland Township police got tips that Sanders had secretly implicated Shaw and acknowledged his role in the girl's death.

The detectives who helped build the case - Mosiniak works for Bucks County and McMullin for Bensalem police - kept it going over the past decade.

They found reports from motorists on Route 1 in Bensalem who said they saw two men on the side of the road on the night of Rowan's disappearance who looked like they were dumping a body.

The descriptions matched Shaw and Sanders - who at the time always wore a Confederate Flag hat. They even asked Sanders about it.

"Mosiniak reminded Sanders about an earlier interview where Sanders talked about his gray 'rebel hat,' " the criminal complaint said. "Sanders recalled that and said he never left home without it. He said he would have been wearing that hat on Aug. 3, 1984."

McMullin, the Bensalem detective, started working the case in 2002. But he said he only met with Rowan's parents on Thursday - to share the news.

"I didn't want to stir up old wounds," he said, "until we had something to tell them."

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