The victim, Bryce Tompkins, was found in Neshannock Creek in December of 1988

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The victim, Bryce Tompkins, was found in Neshannock Creek in December of 1988

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) - A man who's now in a Pennsylvania prison for a double homicide will be brought back to Lawrence County in the next few weeks to face murder charges from a 30-year-old cold case.

On Thursday morning, Pennsylvania State Troopers and Lawrence County District Attorney Josh Lamancusa announced they had filed charges against Regis Brown, 59, in the 1988 murder of Bryce Tompkins.

He's charged with one count of criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of intimidation of a witness.

WATCH: Thursday's full press conference

Investigators say they suspected Brown for years but could never get him to confess.

But after being arrested in March of 2018 for killing his own wife and step-daughter near Erie -- a crime he is currently serving a life sentence for -- troopers say Brown finally admitted to what he did.

"He described where the killing occurred, the motive for it, the disposal of the body and the subsequent burying of the 38-caliber pistol," Lamancusa said.

Pennsylvania State Trooper Joe Vascetti has spent the last 10 years investigating the Tompkins murder and had interviewed Brown a number of times but couldn't get him to admit anything.

Vascetti says Brown -- who is a member of the "Outlaws" motorcycle gang -- has been in and out of prison most of his life and has a "checkered past" and is a "violent offender."

"He's either been arrested for or confessed to or is a strong suspect in eight homicides right now," Vascetti said.

Troopers say Tompkins saw Brown and another man breaking into a home in New Castle in December of 1988. They confronted him a few days later and shot him execution-style.

Tompkins' body was found that year on Dec. 26, partially submerged in Neshannock Creek. They said he was shot twice in the back.

"I truly never thought it would be solved. I thought it would be a cold case," said Barbara Shepherd, Tompkins' wife.

For three decades, Tompkins' loved ones were convinced his killer would never be found.

"My sister never was able to get past my dad passing and luckily for her, she would contact the police officers to ask if there were any updates," said Stacey Harding, Tompkins' daughter.

Ironically, Harding says her sister died two years ago, never able to see this day.

"The family's the victim here, they've had this nightmare for 30 years and hopefully get some closure," Vascetti said.

While Tompkins' family members were relieved to hear the case had finally broken, Troopers believe Brown may have been involved -- directly or indirectly -- in more than a dozen other unsolved murders across western Pennsylvania since the mid-1980s.

Investigators don't expect Brown to be given the death penalty for Tompkins' murder.

Troopers say the other suspect, Paul Ayersman, died two years ago without ever being charged.

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Gerry Ricciutti
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