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Cheltenham police: Man killed brother who bailed him out

The suspect, Jamison Bachman, was charged with assault earlier this year in Philadelphia.

Jamison Bachman of Philadelphia is accused by Montgomery County authorities of killing his brother Harry Bachman at Harry’s home in Elkins Park.
Jamison Bachman of Philadelphia is accused by Montgomery County authorities of killing his brother Harry Bachman at Harry’s home in Elkins Park.Read moreMontgomery County

Harry Bachman tried to take care of his younger brother, Jamison.

Sometimes Harry, 64, let Jamison, 60, stay at his neat suburban home in Montgomery County. Earlier this year, Harry posted bail when his brother was charged with assault.

On Sunday, Jamison Bachman was charged with beating to death the brother who had helped him.

Police gave this account:

Friday evening, Harry, an architect with degrees from Cornell and Drexel Universities, was getting ready to drive his red Ford Escape from his 1930s-era  home in the 400 block of North Sterling Drive in the Elkins Park section of Cheltenham Township to join his wife near Saratoga, N.Y.  "Guess who just showed up just as I drove in," Bachman texted to his wife, Caroline, a psychologist, at 6:40 p.m. "No, don't guess," he added.

Less than a minute later, Caroline Bachman received a brief, misspelled message, assuring that Harry Bachman would start the four-hour ride "in 0 minuets." By Saturday morning, her husband still hadn't arrived, and she called police.

Cheltenham Sgt. Michael Regan led a group of officers to the home shortly after noon on Saturday. Once inside, police found Harry Bachman's body on the basement stairs. He had been hit in the head and had a cut ear. A large amount of blood was found in the dining room with bloody drag marks leading toward the basement door. Also in the dining room was a "fresh" hole in a wall and a shattered serving plate. In the kitchen, bloody clothing suggested the attacker had changed before leaving. Blood was also in the kitchen and bathroom sinks. An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday.

Police say Jamison killed Harry, stole a red 2013 Ford Escape registered to Caroline Bachman and an American Express card, and drove seven miles to rent a room for the weekend at the Fairville Inn & Suites by Marriott in Willow Grove. Jamison paid for the room with his brother's Amex card.

Later Saturday, county and township detectives, joined by SWAT officers, arrived with a warrant and arrested Jamison Bachman in Room 102. In the Ford Escape, parked in the hotel lot, were bloody paper towels. Police said Jamison did not resist arrest. His mugshot shows a purple bruise under his left eye and a line of dried blood from above his left eye to below his mouth.

On Sunday morning, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Cheltenham Police Chief John Frye said they would charge Jamison Bachman with first- and third-degree murder.

"There were obvious signs of a violent struggle" and Harry Bachman "appeared to have suffered blunt force trauma to the head and body," according to their joint statement. Jamison Bachman was arraigned Sunday evening on charges of first and third degree murder in Montgomery County, and was ordered held without bail.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Caroline Bachman told investigators she and her husband recently posted bail for Jamison. When he asked to stay at their home, they refused "due to his past history of violence and arrests."

According to court records, Jamison was scheduled for trial in Philadelphia on Jan. 12 on charges of simple assault, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and possession of an instrument of crime. Those charges were filed in May; in June, 10 percent of $10,000 bail was posted, police said.

Jamison also faced a Nov. 28 trial, also in Philadelphia, for contempt for an alleged violation of a court order, and for allegedly making terroristic threats. That followed a complaint filed against him in August. In that case, 10 percent of $2,500 bail was posted on Oct. 28. His court-appointed attorneys in those cases did not immediately return calls on Sunday.

According to other public documents, Jamison returned to the Philadelphia area in recent years from New York, where he had incurred debts. He had sometimes stayed with Harry and his wife, police said. Records list more than one address for Jamison in Philadelphia; sometimes he used his brother's Elkins Park address.

Jamison Bachman made the news in 2013 when a woman accused him of trashing a West Philadelphia home she owned and refusing to leave. She had agreed to let him stay there temporarily because he said he was a refugee from a New York neighborhood ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, according to an article about the dispute in the former City Paper. "Frankly, you're frightening," the article quoted Common Pleas Court Judge Marvin Williams telling Jamison Bachman. The judge ordered Jamison to leave the home and to pay the woman $1,300.

"This was an unusual case. I did the work pro bono, I felt so sorry for her," Philadelphia lawyer David Denenberg, who represented the homeowner, said Sunday morning.

In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder charges are typically brought when an accused person is suspected of planning a killing; for third-degree murder, the killing need not have been premeditated. Prosecutors often bring both charges in the early stages of a case.

A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 21.

Staff Writer Valerie Russ contributed to this article.