Paul Freshour

Pickaway County, Ohio
Date of Crime:  February 1983

Paul Freshour was convicted of the attempted murder of his sister-in-law, Mary Gillispie, a school bus driver.  In 1976 Mary received a letter in the mail telling her that the letter writer was aware that she was having an affair with the superintendent of schools and that it had better stop.  The letter also contained the threat, “I know where you live.  I've been observing your house and know you have children.  This is no joke.  Please take it serious.”  Mary lived in Circleville, Ohio and the envelope was postmarked Columbus, Ohio which was 25 miles away.  There was no return address, no signature inside, no way to tell who sent it.

A week later Mary received another letter with a similar tone.  She kept the letters to herself.  Then her husband Ron received a letter telling him that if he didn't do something to stop this affair, that his life was undoubtedly in danger.  Ron later received another letter which stated, “Gillispie, you have had 2 weeks and done nothing.  Make her admit the truth and inform the school board.  If not, I will broadcast it on CBs, posters, signs, and billboards, until the truth comes out.”

Mary and Ron thought they knew the identity of the letter writer.  They wrote four or five letters to this man telling him that they knew who he was and what he was doing.  For a while the letters stopped.  However, on Aug. 19, 1977, Ron received a phone call.  The call seemed to confirm Ron's suspicions about the identity of the letter writer.  Ron then took his gun and told his children he was going out to confront the letter writer.  He was not known to be a heavy drinker and did not seem to be drunk.  Within a short distance, at an intersection Ron knew well, he died after his pickup truck crashed into a tree.  A shot had been fired from his gun.  There was no explanation at whom the gun could have been fired.  Tests reportedly showed Ron had a .16 alcohol level in his blood, more than one and a half times the legal limit.

After giving a lie detector test to a suspect, the sheriff ruled Ron's death an accident.  But several Circleville residents soon received anonymous letters accusing the sheriff of a cover-up.  Mary admitted to a relationship with the superintendent of schools, but said it began after the letters were sent.  Mary kept her job driving a school bus and kept receiving letters.

In 1983 the letter writer began putting signs along her bus route.  Mary stopped her bus to rip down a sign, but noticed there was a sting attached to the sign which connected to a box located behind the sign.  She took the box inside her bus, opened it up, and found a pistol was inside the box.  She found that the box was a crude booby trap intended to shoot her when she took down the sign.

Someone had tried to rub the serial number off the pistol, but lab tests were able to read it accurately.  It turned out the gun belonged to Mary's brother-in-law, Paul Freshour.  Freshour said the gun was his, but he had not seen it in a long time and had no reason to check on it.  He denied he had anything to do with the booby trap.

Sheriff Dwight Radcliff gave Freshour an envelope and letter of the Circleville writer and asked Freshour to copy them as near as he could.  Based on Freshour's copying skills, the sheriff concluded that he was the letter writer and had written the sign on the booby trap.  After a jury trial, Freshour was sentenced to 7 to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder of Mary.  Everyone assumed he had written the Circleville letters and that the letters would stop once he was in prison.  However, letters continued to be received over a large area of central Ohio.

Following repeated complaints by the sheriff, the warden of Freshour's prison put Freshour in solitary confinement, and conducted at least two full-scale investigations.  The warden became convinced that Freshour could not possibly be writing the letters.  Also Freshour was imprisoned in Lima, Ohio which was 90 miles away from Columbus where the letters were postmarked and presumably sent.

Although Freshour was a model prisoner, he was denied parole after seven years of imprisonment because of the volume of letters that was still being sent.  Eventually he was paroled after 10 years of imprisonment in May of 1994.

At the time Mary found the booby trap, one of the other bus drivers had driven down the same road 20 minutes before and had seen a yellow El Camino parked by the booby trap's location along with a large man with sandy hair.  This man's description does not fit Freshour.  The man turned away from the bus driver apparently to avoid being identified.  Another possible suspect in the case had a brother who owned a yellow El Camino.  It was never made clear who wrote the letters and made the booby trap, or whether Ron Gillispie's death was a murder or an accident.  [12/09]


Reference:  Unsolved Mysteries

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Western Ohio Cases, Miscellaneous Forensics