July 29, 2019 | By Troy Hollinger
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
David Gathright’s brother Edward is one of Philadelphia’s older cold case homicides. At well over 38 years since his murder, David has kept a vigilant eye toward setting right the wrongs of the past. David has consistently been very forthcoming and transparent with details which would throw most interested parties caution. So, it’s best to start at the beginning.
David’s recollection of early childhood could be summed up in two words: transient and harsh. Recounting a time when back-and-forth moves between Philadelphia and Youngstown, Ohio, meant “we went to 12 different elementary schools,” he recalls. The constant moves attributed to the unstable homelife he and his siblings were exposed to.
Gathright doesn’t shy away from sharing details of those hardships. The children often witnessed the abusive nature of their father toward their mom, while simultaneously seeing the alcohol addiction their mom battled. The Gathright siblings were united in the certainty that their homelife was dysfunctional. Reliance on stability became a luxury.
Bouts of chaos surrounded David and the others which eventually lead to the splitting of their parents. Older brother Edward took on the challenge of standing firm with responsibilities which mirrored more of a father to his younger siblings. “He was like a brother and a father. He was very protective of us,” David remembers. Of course, the nature of the Gathright’s upbringing and environment ensured the lessons of hardship would be a lifelong theme to battle.
Each of the Gathrights enlisted in the military when they became of age. Edward Gathright enlisted at the age of seventeen. After completing his duty, Edward was honorably discharged.
David recounts their shared interest and activism in their hometown civil rights movement and community. Those roles occupied by Edward a fragmentated ruminant. As David has been left to confront the reality that his beloved brother, Edward was a fugitive of the law at the time of his death. Leaving siblings with only memories.
“My fondest moment is watching him dance,” his sister Dona shares. “I always think about his smooth moves to make me smile and remember him.”
In 1967, Edward Gathright adopted an alias and went by the name Robert Anderson. David explains that he and Edward were involved in a mugging and charged with aggravated assault. David served his time and moved forward, eventually working as a drug and alcohol counselor in North Philadelphia. Although, Edward – or Robert — was still evading law enforcement, he maintained his status of role model to his siblings.
Just a month following Edward’s murder in 1980, David Gathright spoke with the Philadelphia Daily News. “At one time in our lives, we were both involved in very destructive life-styles,” David said. “Drinking and using drugs. He helped me get out of it, giving me support.” David understood the wrongs his brother had committed, but still admired him.
Harry Gathright shared similar sentiments of his brother, adding, “Eddie would always stay in my ear about responsibilities. I remember him with a beautiful smile and was always there when I needed him.”
Comprehending the double life of Edward Gathright requires patience and a bit of understanding while delving in his past. Edward eluded police for the final thirteen years of his life. He was found shot to death in his own bed.
Now, 39 years later, David carries on in the pursuit of justice for his brother Edward Gathright. David worries that attention on his brother’s life and shortcomings overshadow his murder. “After all these years, I just want to see justice done. I feel there isn’t fairness in this case considering my brother’s run in with the law,” he shared.
With conviction testing brotherly love, David stays true. David and his family send letters every year near the anniversary of Edward’s murder to nearly every department that could help him solve the case.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Edward Gathright, or Robert Anderson, please call the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-8477.
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