Execution date set for Clearfield child murderer

Stephen Rex Edmiston, 55, has been given the date of his death.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the execution warrant for the Cambria County man Thursday.

Edmiston was convicted 25 years ago of the 1988 rape and murder of Bobbi Jo Matthew, a 2-year-old Clearfield County girl who was abducted from her bed one night. He was a suspect from the moment Matthew’s grandmother, Nancy Dott, heard family members describe a bearded man in a baseball hat being seen in the home. She recognized the description of her boyfriend’s nephew.

The body was discovered after Edmiston directed police to “a dead, raped child” on a map, part of the confession he offered after bloody scissors and a little girl’s purple shorts were found in his truck. He later recanted that confession.

Over the years, Edmiston has appealed his conviction and his death sentence. His last request to have DNA testing done was heard by the state Supreme Court. It was rejected in 2013.

“Mr. Edmiston has an active habeas petition pending in the United States District Court for the Western District. As a result, his defense counsel may file a motion for a stay of execution in this court in order for them to proceed without an imminent execution upon Mr. Edmiston,” said Joshua Maus of the governor’s Office of General Counsel.

According to a statement from the Office of General Counsel, Edmiston’s death warrant is the 31st signed by Corbett.

The state Department of Corrections lists Gary Heidnik’s 1999 execution by lethal injection as the last to happen in Pennsylvania. Heidnik’s July 1988 rape and murder of two adult women happened just three months before Matthew’s death.

Edmiston is incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Greene in Franklin Township, Greene County. An execution would occur at SCI-Rockview. Edmiston would be moved there within days of the event, but that information is not released due to security concerns, said Susan McNaughton, the Department of Corrections press secretary.