BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) – Investigators say a burned body found in Lawrence County Monday night is that of 26-year-old Melissa Barto.
Barto was reported missing last week after she missed her daughter’s kindergarten graduation.
“Yes, we were prepared for the worst. We knew she was dead. We had no idea of the horrendousness, the manner or any of those kinds of details, none of my family had,” Melissa Barto’s father, Dan, said.
“It was what I would call a case not very good at first, but it came together, and I think we have a good case at this point,” Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said.
KDKA’s Bob Allen Reports —
On Sunday, police arrested Barto’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Ishemer Ramsey, after receiving several tips. Ramsey reportedly told a friend he shot Barto because he thought she was cheating on him.
He is charged with homicide.
Police called the crime, horrific and very bad. Early Tuesday morning, a second suspect, James Howard George, was taken into custody.
“Through the course of investigating a missing person, Pennsylvania State Police and local police departments were able to get a statement from Mr. Howard George in which he outlined how Mr. Ramsey allegedly committed the homicide and disposed of Ms. Barto’s body,” Goldinger said. “We’ve also charged James Howard George with tampering with evidence and assisting in the criminal offense for which Mr. Ramsey is charged.”
Later, on Tuesday afternoon, police made a third arrest in the case. They took Joshua Bowser into custody. He’s charged with criminal conspiracy of tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and obstruction of justice.
KDKA’s Lisa Washington Reports —
State police received a tip that Ramsey and George bought items including tarp, rubber gloves and rope from a Walmart store in Butler.
Police say evidence found near the scene where Barto’s body was found match the items purchased at the Walmart.
State Police say more people could face charges in the case.
Meanwhile, her family is preparing for her funeral.
“She was a beautiful girl, she was a beautiful soul, she was a great mother,” Jeremy Barto, Melissa’s brother, said.
“I just want to let any woman in this community know, if this is what’s happening in your life, go to somebody, hospital, your pastor,” said Melissa’s mother, Lisa, of her message to any other women facing a domestic violence situation.
The Butler County District Attorney’s Office will decide if they will pursue the death penalty against Ramsey.