On a warm summer’s night in 1987, a kind hearted man named Stanley Detweiler became the victim of gruesome brutality during a home invasion in Reading, PA. The two robbers, John Calvaresi and Michael Boettlin, expected an empty apartment, but what happened next is unimaginable. At the time, our host Mo was a little kid living 15 minutes away, completely unaware of the horrors happening in the night.
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About an hour or so outside of Philly is Reading, PA. Smaller than Philadelphia but definitely not small, Reading is the 4th largest city in the state. Famous for the Reading Railroad, a giant pagoda on the mountain, outlet shopping, pretzels and a high crime rate, Reading is an odd mix of urban life and history. From local sports teams that feed up through the systems to the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers to museums and art centers, I actually grew up about 15 minutes or so away so I’m a little biased by nostalgia and memories. I was even born in the Reading Hospital even though I grew up a bit outside the actual city.
When I was a kid, the day before school started each year my dad would take off work and we would go to the Reading Museum. I would always drag him to see the mummy we’d seen a hundred times. We would walk through the garden trails to see the ducks swimming and bobbing their heads underwater.
I have so many memories of Reading Phillies games first as a kid with my parents, brother and sister. Later taking my nieces. Now going with my husband and our nephews. There’s just something about a hot dog and a funnel cake at the stadium that taste so much better.
Now, let’s travel back to 1987. The first Starbucks outside of the US opened in Vancouver, Canada. Platoon won the Oscar for Best Picture. In Taiwan, martial law ended after 38 years. Rick Astley’s single “Never Gonna Give You Up” was written and released. Fluoxetine (aka Prozac) was approved by the FDA. Big hair and bright colors still ruled the fashion world, and the first Intel microprocessor had hit the markets the year before.
And sadly, one of (if not the) most gruesome murder in the history of Reading PA happened on a warm July night.
How It Began
David Lutz was 20 years old, partying on 10th Street in the city on July 24 when he met 16 year old Michael Boettlin. Trying to impress Michael into a romantic endeavor, he started to brag. David went on to talk about how he and his roommate “had a lot of money and had a nice stereo” to entice him. He even added that Stanley was rich and currently on vacation out of town so they could go back and party in private. Boettlin agreed to go home with him but changed his mind as they walked back to the apartment. Instead, David gave him the address on Fifth Street just a few blocks away, hoping to see him again soon.
We’ve all embellished our lives to impress a possible romantic pursuit. In reality, his roomate was 41 year old Stanley Detweiler. He worked hard as the banquet setup person at a local Holiday Inn. Stanley was said to be kind… the type of person everyone just loved to be around. He was a talented pianist who would help to tune other’s pianos and even sat on the board and played the organ at his church. He was so excited to celebrate his 42nd birthday which was just two days away on July 27.
His brother Norman said that Stanley was so generous and compassionate that at times it would even get him into trouble. Once he picked up a hitchhiker only to have the man pull a knife and steal the car. Norman put it simply, “He was just very kind-hearted. He would do a lot for people.”
Later That Night
As David was bragging and trying to get Michael to come home with him, he didn’t know that Michael Boettlin would reunite with his childhood babysitter, 22 year old John Calvaresi at a party. Michael was going to start 10th grade in the fall. He had always looked up to John who was 6 years his senior, and now the man was able to buy him alcohol and treated him like an adult. Calvaresi was an odd role model being a high school dropout and a drifter. He was also really into motorcycles and playing pool which may have been a shared interest they bonded over.
But these two didn’t just reminisce and talk about the good old days. As they continued to drink, the two started to plan a robbery. After meeting David and hearing him brag, Michael suggested the target with a rich roommate and fancy stereo system.
As night turned to morning, these two conspirators set out to their target location. Michael kicked in the door to the apartment which they thought would be empty. Instead, the noise woke Stanley who was unfortunately home that night. As he tried to defend against the intruders, the two overpowered his slender frame. Calvaresi threw him to the ground. In the adrenaline rush, Boettlin felt he needed to do something and kicked Stanley in the face as the two older men struggled. As the altercation took place in the doorway, his body was half inside and half in the vestibule as they continued to kick and beat him. He fell unconscious and they dragged him inside before shutting the door. From this beating, Detweiler suffered 5 broken ribs in addition to bruising and smaller injuries.
A Dark Turn of Events
As John Calvaresi went to the kitchen, Michael Boettlin started to go through the apartment looking for items and money to steal. Unlike David’s descriptions, the apartment was sparsely furnished with very little of value. Boettlin grabbed a glass bank and a checkbook but found little else.
Meanwhile, Calvaresi had grabbed a 9 to 10” knife from the kitchen. Some articles stated it was a butcher knife, others a serrated bread knife. Returning to the living room where Detweiler lay, he asked “Should I cut his head off?” Boettlin’s horrifying response was simply, “Ok.” He later said he was in shock and didn’t really believe that Calvaresi was going to do it. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know this guy; I’m next,’ ” he said. “People don’t understand how traumatized I was.”
Stanley Detweiler had started to come to, struggling as Calvaresi pinned him to the floor with his knees. As Detweiler tried to fend off the attack, Boettlin stepped on his arm to hold it down.
This is when John Calvaresi started to cut his neck in a sawing motion before twisting the head off and depositing it on the floor beside the body. He wiped the blood off of himself before using it write REDRUM on the kitchen wall. The movie “The Shining” had aired on network television the week before, presumably giving him the idea. He told Boettlin to smudge the letters so there would be no fingerprints before writing REDRUM once again in the living room in addition to LSD. Calvaresi stated that while LSD was his favorite drug, he had only indulged on alcohol that night. He had just decided it would make it more interesting to write more words on the walls.
Boettlin later told police he didn’t understand why Calvaresi murdered Detweiler. The apartment was dark so he couldn’t see his attackers. They could have simply walked away, but instead, ended a life.
Throughout the scene were bloody footprints, handprints and fingerprints, but the actual property was not completely ransacked.
Was it worth it?
After leaving, the pair took inventory of their loot: $22 in quarters which they split in half. According to investigators, the stereo system that was supposed to be so expensive? “A piece of junk.” Oddly enough, they didn’t even take the money from his wallet which tripped investigators up at first.
David returned home at 3:30am to find his roomate’s body on the living room floor. He immediately called the police. After being treated for shock at the hospital, he was interviewed at City Hall before being cleared.
Shock and horror spread to the community
Police Chief Rodney Steffy was highly involved in the case along with the Berks County District Attorney George Yatron. When Steffy saw the body for the first time, all he could think was “what kind of lunatic would do something like this?” While known for a lot of smaller crime and gang-related events, the city had little experience of such a brutal crime.
In addition to interviewing David, police interviewed several people that knew both of the roommated to try to find anything on the case. A second interview revealed the detail of meeting Michael the night before, but David only remembered his first name. With a clue, the police dug in and interviewed others present at the party where they had met and another person remembered Michael’s last name and address. Additionally, Michael Boettlin had bragged about the crime to a friend.
A swift arrest was made just 4 days after the heinous crime as they detained Michael Boettlin at home in the presence of his mother and stepfather. He was arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, murder, voluntary manslughter, burglary, aggravated assault, robbery and six counts of criminal conspiracy as a warrant was issued for John Calvaresi’s arrest. Due to the brutality and horror of the crime, the 16 year-old was arraigned and tried as an adult.
The next day, the police received a tip that led to the arrest of Calvaresi who was also charged with criminal homicide, murder, voluntary manslughter, burglary, aggravated assault, robbery and criminal conspiracy.
During his trial, John Calvaresi showed no emotion as he testified and described the horrible act. He pled guilty but mentally ill to 1st degree murder, stating “There was something wrong because you just don’t go around cutting people’s heads off for nothing.”
Dr. Larry Rotenberg, a psychiatrist at the Reading Hospital, assessed the suspect. He testified that Calvaresi was legally sane and able to stand trial, however, did fit the legal criteria of “guilty but mentally ill”. Calvaresi was an epileptic who was probably taking the wrong medication which he also mixed with anti-depressants, drugs and alcohol. He had attempted suicide multiple times in his past as well as multiple psychotic episodes. Some of these even included writing threatening letter to US President Ronald Reagan.
Both attackers were given life sentences for the crime.
After the investigation wrapped up, there’s a small personal tie to this case. My grandfather and two uncles worked in the construction business for years, and they were the crew that had to go to Stanley’s apartment and replace the floors and walls. Needless to say, they were freaked out by the scene, location and job to the point they didn’t even like talking about it. The scene was gruesome and horrifying, and they didn’t want to bring that to family gatherings or get-togethers.
In 2015, John Calvaresi passed away from natural causes at age 50.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles convicted of murder could not be subjected to mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. In October of 2017, Michael Boettlin was re-sentenced to 40 years to life in prison with parole eligibility after 10 years. At this time he will be 56 years of age.
Boettlin claims to have changed in prison. He earned his GED in 1994 and spends a lot of his time reading books, newspapers and magazines. Stanley Detweiler’s family hopes that this change is true and genuine but are still heartbroken over their loss.
Interested in similar stories? Why not try:
- The Disappearances and Murder of Charles “Chuck” Morgan | Episode 1
- Lindy Sue Biechler: How DNA Solved a 46 Year-Old Cold Case | Episode 4
Researched by Mo from The Squonk & The Hag