The pain in Joseph O’Boyle’s jaw had persisted for years, and he had become desperate for a solution. In September, the 22-year-old met with James Sowa, a popular chiropractor in Bensalem, where O’Boyle and his family have lived for decades.

O’Boyle complained that the treatment didn’t work, and in fact, made his pain worse. He became agitated, and told his family he was going to sue the chiropractor. Instead, prosecutors say, he broke into Sowa’s office in November and beat him to death.

O’Boyle was charged Friday with criminal homicide, burglary, and related offenses. He also faces aggravated assault for allegedly punching a Bensalem Township detective who visited his home while investigating Sowa’s death.

District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, in announcing the charges, said Sowa, 64, had his life “brutally and viciously taken from him.”

O’Boyle’s attorney, Joseph Haag, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sowa’s family did not comment at length Friday, asking for privacy. His brother-in-law, Bill Kralle, said Sowa was a dedicated family man, and a beloved figure in his community. The line to pay respects at Sowa’s funeral was hundreds-deep, wrapping around the funeral home.

“I don’t think I could’ve picked a better brother-in-law,” Kralle said.

Sowa’s neighbors similarly praised him, including Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, who worked with Sowa in his capacity as a Republican committeeman.

“He’s just well missed,” DiGirolamo said. “His was an incredible story with an ending no one can believe, because no one had hate for this man. He is the type of man you’d want in your community.”

In an affidavit of probable cause unsealed Friday, a county grand jury described the investigation that led to O’Boyle, whose family said he suffers from schizophrenia and has a history of violent and aggressive behavior, including an assault on his father in August.

James Sowa, 64, was a beloved member of the Bensalem community, according to District Attorney Matthew Weintraub.
Courtesy of Bucks County District Attorney's office
James Sowa, 64, was a beloved member of the Bensalem community, according to District Attorney Matthew Weintraub.

On the morning of Nov. 2, Sowa was in his home, which was also his office, on Hulmeville Road, the affidavit said. He spoke to his wife just before 8 a.m., but did not answer other calls from his family and patients, which worried his two adult sons.

About 3:30 p.m., Sowa’s younger son went to the office to check on him, and found him collapsed, suffering from severe injuries to his head and jaw. Medics pronounced Sowa dead at the scene, and investigators later concluded that he died of blunt-force trauma.

Investigators patched together surveillance footage from nearby homes and businesses in the following days, and noticed a Nissan Altima driving into and out of Sowa’s parking lot around the time his family last heard from him, according to the affidavit. The vehicle, they learned, was registered to O’Boyle’s mother.

When detectives went to interview O’Boyle, he appeared “agitated” when questioned, they said, and lunged at one of them, punching him multiple times in the head.

In testimony to the grand jury, O’Boyle’s mother and father revealed that a week after Sowa’s death, he admitted killing the chiropractor, a fact they had initially hid from police. And a friend of O’Boyle’s told the grand jury O’Boyle had been communicating with him on Snapchat before the attack, saying he was fascinated by Cosmo DiNardo, who killed four men on a farm in Solebury Township, the affidavit said.

After the attack, O’Boyle told the man that he was being pursued and needed to flee the area, according to his testimony.