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Cold Case Project: slayings of West Chester man and his dogs remain unsolved

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 4:05 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 4:05 PM
By: Lou Grieco - Staff Writer

On his final afternoon, George Gibson left work early, without explanation.

Within a few hours, someone shot the Procter & Gamble researcher nine times in his West Chester home. The killer, who apparently broke in through a rear basement window, also killed Gibson’s two pet Bernese Mountain dogs, Hugo and Capella.

“We believe he received a phone call at his work that made him leave early,” said Det. Doug Farris, the latest to investigate the nearly 13-year-old cold case.

Gibson, 47, was shot to death June 22, 2000. His wife Paige Smith, also a Procter & Gamble researcher at the time, was in upstate New York on a business trip that day.

“It’s one of those things where nothing makes sense,” Smith said last week from Oxford, NY, where she now lives. “It’s so foreign to me. So unlikely that George would have a passionate enemy.”

Gibson is hardly the typical murder victim, Farris said, noting that “he did not have a high-risk lifestyle.”

Gibson graduated from Brown University, then received his degree in veterinary medicine from Michigan State University. After practicing in Vermont, he went to Cornell University, where he received a doctorate in pathology. While at Cornell, he met Smith, who was pursuing her doctorate in veterinary clinical nutrition there.

The couple moved from New York to the Cincinnati area about two years before the murder. Gibson worked at P&G’s Ross facility and Smith at the Mason branch.

Smith and Gibson’s sister, Judy, who lives in New York and did not want her last name used, both said that Gibson was a generous man, an animal lover and a pillar of the family. He helped people, was involved with his church and the Boy Scouts, even though he and Smith did not have children.

Gibson’s last day was a Thursday. Smith saw him before going to work. After work, she flew to Norwich, NY. Gibson was seen leaving work about 3:40 p.m., then seen arriving home around 5:20 p.m.

Smith became concerned after she could not reach Gibson by phone and, the next day, asked a neighbor to check on him. P&G employees had called police after Gibson did not arrive at work, and officers arrived just as the neighbors were about to enter the home. About 12:30, police found his body on the first floor of the home at 7165 Tylersville Road.

Gibson was shot seven times in the head, once in the neck and once in the chest. The killer fired at least five more shots at the dogs. One was found in the basement near the broken window. The other was found on the main floor.

Farris said that it appeared that someone sat Gibson down, had a talk with him, then executed him. He described the crime as “very personal.”

Nothing was missing from the home, though some things had been moved around, Farris said.

There were no suspects, and no known reason for Gibson’s slaying. But police found that Gibson had a secret life after a woman came forward and told them that she had met Gibson through a dating phone service. Police now believe Gibson had contact with several people through the service, Farris said.

Asked about the phone service, Smith said “I guess it’s possible,” but added that it didn’t sound like him. His sister said she found it nearly impossible and described Gibson as “very straight laced” and the couple as extremely close.

“We always said George and Paige together, like it was one word,” she said. “He and Paige had a very tight marriage. It seems unlikely to me.”

The two speculated that Gibson could have been the victim of a botched hit, in which a killer went to the wrong house, or that his generosity could have gotten him in trouble. On at least one occasion, Gibson helped a female acquaintance leave an abusive partner, they said.

“I could see him trying to help someone who was in trouble,” the sister said.

But Farris said that evidence found at the scene points more closely to the dating service, though he declined to say what that evidence was.

His family members said that they just want to know what happened to Gibson, and why.

“It would be wonderful to have some sort of explanation,” his sister Judy said. “We’ll grieve him all our lives, but at least we’d know what happened.”

Anyone with information about the slaying of George Gibson is asked to call West Chester 513-759-7272 or Miami Valley Crime Stoppers at 937-222-STOP.