The picture of a happy young girl cheek-to-cheek with her smiling mother tugs at the heartstrings of motorists as they catch sight of the emotional message: “My mom was killed Jan. 12, 1996.”

The three billboards in Cambria County are an appeal by the state police for help in solving the murder of Beth Ann Bodenschatz in her Croyle Township home.

Bodenschatz, 36, married and the mother of four, died of a single gunshot to the head.

She was killed during the daylight hours of that winter day and, although she was wounded only once, the police have said that apparently more shots were fired during a struggle.

State police never give up trying to solve the so-called “cold cases,” with investigators periodically reviewing files and searching for new clues, said Sgt. William Bonin, commander of the Ebensburg barracks.

This the first time in his 21-year career that the state police have used an appeal by billboards.

“I just thought if somebody is riding past that everyday, it might generate a call. This is a great way to put it in the forefront so that it’s not forgotten. We’re going the extra mile to solve this,” Bonin said.

One billboard is along Route 22 eastbound in Cambria Township, another on Route 219 northbound between Sidman and South Fork exits, and the other on Route 53 westbound near Summerhill.

He added, “Maybe somebody out there knows something, has known it for years. This might prompt a call from them.”

The investigation through the years has included scores of interviews and even a search in 2003 by the state police, assisted by emergency management personnel and state forestry workers, for the murder weapon, believed to be a .40-caliber Glock handgun.

On the day of the murder, police said five spent .40-caliber cartridges were found in the bedroom where she was killed and one live round was beneath her body.

In 2001, the police disclosed for the first time that the intruder who shot and killed Bodenschatz had stolen her 2-carat diamond ring. They even released a photo of a replica of it in hopes the original would be recognized.

Bodenschatz has been described as a family-oriented working mom, who was a registered nurse in the ambulatory surgery department at the former Lee Hospital in Johnstown.

She and her husband, Michael, were married in August 1981, and raised a family of, eventually, four children.

They first lived in Summerhill before building their home on New Germany Road less than a mile from her parents’ home.

Anyone with information may call the state police: 471-6500.

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