Western Ohio
Victims of the State

28 Cases

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County:   Butler   Clinton   Franklin   Greene

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Butler County, OH
Lonzo Thornton
Oct 6, 1926 (Middletown)

Lonzo Thornton was convicted of assaulting and robbing Louie Parkalab, a recent immigrant from central Europe. Thornton had visited James Ivory, a suspect arrested for the robbery, to get back the overcoat he had lent Ivory. Thornton was subsequently questioned by police and identified by Parkalab as the second person of the pair who had robbed him. At trial Thornton had 5 alibi witnesses, although some of these witnesses had bad reputations, which did not help him. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years at the Columbus penitentiary. This penitentiary would burn in 1930, killing 322 inmates trapped in their cells. In Jan 1928, another man was arrested on other charges and confessed to being Ivory's accomplice in the Parkalab robbery. The Ohio Governor pardoned Thornton in Feb 1928.  (CTI)  [11/07]

Clinton County, OH
Clarence McKinney
Feb 14, 1922 (Wilmington)

Late in the evening, Wilmington police officers Henry Adams and Emory McCreight were patrolling an alley skirting the post office on Main Street when they heard a racket at the back of the Murphy and Benham hardware store. After approaching the area, the officers saw two shadowy figures against the building. Unbeknownst to the officers, the two were cutting their way through the rear door of the hardware store.
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Clinton County, OH
Vincent Doan
Aug 29, 1996 (Blanchester)

Vincent Doan was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend, Clarissa Culberson, also known as Carrie. He was sentenced to 888 years in prison. Culberson, then 22, mysteriously disappeared one night and is presumed dead. Neither her body nor her car have ever been found. The case against Doan was based on speculation, guesswork, and hearsay, with no hard evidence.

In 2004, police received a tip that Culberson's body was buried on the property of Jarrod Messer. Cadaver detecting dogs were brought in and hit on a scent. Seven items were found buried under the concrete floor of Messer's barn. They included a piece of duct tape, a sock, and a shirt. Culberson's mother identified the shirt as her daughter's. Police said the concrete was poured just days after Culberson's disappearance.

Culberson knew Messer and even introduced him to her mother. Messer associated with Michael Fogt, who was later convicted of the 1998 murder of his wife. The father of Fogt's wife believes his daughter was killed because she knew too much. Fogt also shot Messer in the back in 1998, but Messer refused to press charges. In addition to the murder of his wife, Fogt was also convicted of a 1994 rape and the 2003 murder of a Hillsboro woman. Culberson knew Fogt because he lived next door to her best friend's parents.  (Justice for Vincent Doan)  [3/08]

Franklin County, OH
Allen Thrower
Aug 28, 1972 (Columbus)

Allen Thrower was convicted of the shotgun murder of Columbus Police Officer Joseph Edwards. In 1978 the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Columbus Division of Police determined that Detective Tom Jones Sr. had acted egregiously during the investigation of Thrower. Thrower was released from prison in 1979.  [12/06]

Franklin County, OH
Thomas Broady
Convicted 1973 (Columbus)

Thomas Broady was convicted of murdering John Georgeoff. During Broady's trial, FBI agent Dick Cleary informed Detective Tom Jones Sr. that another suspect had credibly confessed to the murder. Jones responded by telling Cleary, “we have our man,” and he failed to inform the prosecutors or defense counsel about the confession. After Broady discovered the existence of the confession, he was granted a new trial and acquitted.  (Justice: Denied)  [12/06]

Franklin County, OH
Howard & James
Dec 21, 1976

Timothy Howard and Gary Lamar James were convicted of murdering bank guard Berne Davis, 74, while robbing the Ohio National Bank at 1433 E. Main St. bank in Columbus. The pair were initially sentenced to death. After spending 26 years in prison, these two boyhood friends were freed in 2003 after Centurion Ministries established their innocence. Hitherto suppressed police and FBI reports demonstrated that their convictions were based on perjured testimony manipulated by corrupt Columbus police officers including Detective Tom Jones Sr. A retired FBI agent who originally helped investigate the case with the Columbus Police was instrumental in assisting to free these men. In 2006, Howard was awarded $2.6 million for his wrongful imprisonment, but died in 2007, several days after suffering a heart attack. In 2007, James was awarded $1.5 million. He was awarded less than Howard because his legal fees were less and his lost wages were deemed to be less.  (CM) (JD#1) (JD#2)  [6/05]

Franklin County, OH
Joseph Fears
1983 (Columbus)

Joseph R. Fears, Jr was convicted in connection to a pair of rapes committed a week apart in Columbus, Ohio, in 1983. An initial review of Fears' case by the Ohio Innocence Project could not go forward because biological evidence from the rapes could not be located. However, the exoneration of another inmate, Robert McClendon, made such an impression on Franklin County prosecutor, Ron O'Brien, that he ordered a comprehensive review of the county's evidence room and case files. The review turned up evidence from both rapes, although only one rape had material suitable for DNA testing. DNA tests not only exonerated Fears, but it implicated a Michigan felon who has since died. Further investigation revealed the Michigan felon was in the Columbus area at the time of the crime. Fears was released in 2009 after serving more than 25 years of imprisonment.  (UC) (Columbus Dispatch)  [5/09]

Franklin County, OH
Walter D. Smith
1984 - 85 (Columbus)

Walter D. Smith was convicted of sexually assaulting three women. He was sentenced to 78 to 190 years of imprisonment. DNA tests exonerated him in 1996. Smith was awarded nearly $250,000 in 2001 for his wrongful imprisonment.  (IP) (www.walterdsmith.com)  [5/05]

Franklin County, OH
Mark Burke
Nov 23, 1989

Mark E. Burke was sentenced to death merely for standing by and watching his cousin, James Tanner, knife 72-year-old William McBride. According to the coroner, the victim did not die of the stabbing but died of a heart attack.  (Columbus Dispatch)  [12/05]

Franklin County, OH
Wyman Castleberry
Mar 29, 1990

Wyman Castleberry was convicted at his second trial of murdering Jose Soriano, a drug dealer, on the east side of Columbus. Soriano was shot at 3417 Bexvie Avenue, Apartment C, on March 29, 1990. He died several months later. Following Castleberry's conviction it was found that the prosecution withheld three key pieces of evidence: (1) Before he died, the victim stated his assailant was clean-shaven and between 5'6" and 5'8". Castleberry was 5'9" to 5'10" and wore a goatee at the time of the crime. (2) Three of the victim's neighbors reported seeing two thin men go in or near the victim's building and make a threatening statement. This occurred on the day of the crime, and they later heard a gunshot, followed shortly afterward by a car driving away. Castleberry weighed 221 lbs. (3) A witness came forward who stated that the state's star witness against Castleberry, Kenneth “Chief” Thomas, had planned to rob the victim. In 2003, the Sixth Circuit Court overturned Castleberry's conviction. It is not known if the state plans to retry him.  (TruthInJustice)  [12/05]

Franklin County, OH
Robert McClendon
Apr 25, 1990 (Columbus)

Robert McClendon was convicted of raping his 10-year-old daughter, Rahshea Knaff. Knaff reported that she was abducted from her backyard by a man who tied a sock over her eyes. The man then took her to a abandoned house nearby and raped her. Afterwards the man took her to a convenience store and went inside, leaving her alone in the car. While he was inside, Knaff jumped from the car and ran home.

Knaff did not tell her mother about the assault until the next day, when her mother noticed she was acting and walking strangely. According to her mother's testimony, Knaff identified her assailant as her biological father, Robert McClendon. Knaff was taken to a hospital which confirmed she had been assaulted. When asked who assaulted her, she said, “I think it was my dad but I may be wrong because my eyes were covered.” Testimony indicated that Knaff had only seen her father once in her life before the assault.

McClendon was convicted due to his daughter's testimony and due to the state's allegation that he had failed a polygraph test. Years later in 2008, DNA tests were performed which showed that another man committed the assault. McClendon was subsequently exonerated.  (IP) (Columbus Dispatch)  [6/09]

Franklin County, OH
Keith Henness
Mar 20, 1992

Warren Keith Henness's ex-wife, Tabatha Lynn, and her male friends robbed Henness and his friend, Richard Myers, 51. Henness got away but Myers was killed. Tabatha blamed the murder on Henness. As a result, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Tabatha Lynn is reportedly something of “black widow” who has a history of robbing husbands/lovers and having them die suspicious deaths.  (CCADP)  [3/05]

Franklin County, OH
Kevin Tolliver
Dec 29, 2001

Kevin Alan Tolliver, a black man, was convicted of murdering Claire Schneider, his white live-in girlfriend. According to Tolliver, Schneider killed herself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although she was clinically depressed and had not taken her Paxil medicine in 4 days, Schneider's shooting of herself in the mouth, happened so unexpectedly that it appeared to be an involuntary suicide. She may not have been aware that the gun was loaded. The shooting occurred shortly after midnight.

Tolliver was a severe dyslexic since childhood, and emotionally went to pieces following his girlfriend's death. He screamed and cried. Two neighbors in his building, hearing his screams called police, but police came and left without finding the source of the disturbance. Police finally were summoned back by Tolliver's ex-wife, more than an hour after the shooting. Police arrested Tolliver immediately and performed no investigation. They did not test either Tolliver's or Schneider's hands for gunshot residue.

The coroner was prepared to rule that Schneider's death was self-inflicted, until the police gave their theory. He still ruled that her death was undetermined. The prosecution argued murder and Tolliver was convicted because of ineffective defense and the perjured testimony of a jailhouse snitch. Tolliver is serving 16 years to life imprisonment.  (Free KT)  [4/08]

Franklin County, OH
David Kibble
June 19, 2004 (Columbus)

Around midnight, David Kibble was standing behind 1237 E. 17th Avenue in Columbus with Donnell Broomfield and others. After Alan Dukes parked his car there, the men there started an argument with him. Broomfield then took a swing at Dukes and Dukes swung back. After the fight ended, Kibble came up behind Dukes and hit him in the mouth. Dukes and an associate then chased after Kibble. As they entered an alley, Kibble saw a police officer at the other end and ran towards him. Kibble had pulled his knife out during the pursuit and still had it in his hand.

The officer, Adam Hicks, was looking for a suspect, Melvin Collins, who was seen with a gun and was wanted in connection with a carjacking. Like Collins, Kibble was a black male of about the same height and weight. They both were wearing red shirts. Officer Hicks opened fire on Kibble, hitting him three times while he was still beyond shouting distance. Dukes' associate, who was pursuing Kibble with Dukes, was also apparently hit. A video taken after the incident shows a man, who matched a description of Dukes' associate, going up to the camera and showing where a bullet passed through his baggy shorts without injuring him. Dukes had fled the scene, but was later traced through his license plate number.

After being shot, Kibble was charged with the felonious assault of Officer Hicks, apparently to cover-up the wrongful shooting. Hicks told a story that did not involve Kibble being chased and which made the shooting seem justifiable. However, Hicks' story was at odds with the positions of where Kibble and his knife had fallen and where the officer's own shell casings were found. Dukes and two other witnesses attested that Kibble was being chased at the time of the shooting.

Despite the evidence, Kibble accepted a plea bargain in which he did not have to admit guilt. Prior to trial his attorney pointed out that Dukes had a warrant out for his arrest and might not show up in court to testify. Kibble's other witnesses were relatives, which jurors tend to discount. Kibble faced up to 10 years if convicted. The plea bargain allowed him to serve only one year and he had already served almost half of it awaiting trial.

When told of Kibble's conviction, Dukes said, “That's crazy. All [Kibble] was trying to do was get away from us. I was shocked when I saw the officer start shooting for no reason. It didn't make any sense. That's why I took off. I was scared of what might happen next.”  (Justice: Denied)  [9/07]

Greene County, OH
Roger Dean Gillispie
Aug 1988 (Fairborn)

Roger Dean Gillispie was convicted of raping three women. The first woman was raped on Aug. 5, 1988. The other two, twin sisters, were kidnapped and raped on Aug. 20, 1988. The three victims identified Gillispie from a tainted photo lineup two years after the crime. According to the initial descriptions by the victims, the attacker had reddish-brown hair, no chest hair, a loud commanding voice, no accent, bushy eyebrows and a dark suntan. He was also a smoker, wore cologne, and smelled of alcohol.  Gillispie had brown hair that grayed at the sides, a cleft chin, thick chest hair, pale skin, a Kentucky drawl, and rarely wore cologne. Friends say he rarely drank and never smoked.

After the Ohio Innocence Project took on Gillispie's case in 2003, an anonymous tipster called and provided the name of man said to be the real rapist. He was a guard at Lebanon Correctional Institution. This man matched the victim's initial descriptions to a tee. He had even been arrested in 1990 for the apparent kidnapping of a woman, but charges were dropped after the victim refused to cooperate. When spoken to, the man claimed ignorance about the Gillispie case, but seemed overly curious about it and referred to the “ladies” without being told there were multiple victims.  (Western Star) (State v. Gillispie)  [10/07]

Hamilton County, OH
Derrick Jamison
Aug 1, 1984 (Cincinnati)

Derrick Jamison was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Gary Mitchell, a bartender at the Central Bar in downtown Cincinnati. Jamison's conviction was based in part on the testimony of Charles Howell, a codefendant who received a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony against Jamison. In 2002, Jamison's conviction was overturned because the prosecution withheld statements that contradicted Howell's testimony and that would have undermined the prosecution's theory of how the victim died, and would have pointed to other possible suspects for the murder. Additional withheld evidence consisted of a series of discrepancies between Jamison's physical characteristics and the descriptions of the perpetrators given to police investigators by eyewitnesses. Following the overturned conviction, Howell testified that he could not remember anything about the crime, and all charges against Jamison were dismissed in 2005.  [3/06]

Hamilton County, OH
Jerome Campbell
Dec 23, 1988

Jerome Campbell was convicted of stabbing to death his ex-neighbor Henry Turner, 78, during a burglary. Turner was an elderly bootlegger who sold alcohol and cigarettes from his first floor apartment at 1008 York St. Police seized Campbell's gym shoes, one of which had blood on them. Campbell asserted that blood dripped on them once when he cut his finger, but the state claimed it was Turner's blood. The shoes, however, did not match the bloody shoeprints found at the crime scene, but the jury did not learn of this fact. The state also claimed Campbell had taken a bottle of rum as it had the same code number as one in Turner's apartment. However, Turner had a cabinet full of liquor, plus money and a gun near the cabinet, none of which were taken. Campbell was sentenced to death.

In 2002, the bloodied shoe was tested using advanced DNA testing and the tests showed the blood was Campbell's. The state then claimed the blood on the shoe was irrelevant and Campbell was still scheduled for execution in 2003. After an appeals court refused to overturn Campbell's conviction, Gov. Taft commuted his death sentence to life without parole.  (City Beat) (Campaign)  [12/05]

Hamilton County, OH
James Love
Dec 1988 - Mar 1989

In Feb. 1996, 18-year-old Sarah Jane Adams filed a police report, accusing James F. Love of orally raping her six, seven, eight years earlier. After being charged with five rapes, Love filed a notice of alibi, stating that he was out of the United States during a large portion of the time period mentioned in his indictment. His lawyers requested more specific dates and times of the alleged rapes, but the prosecutor repeatedly denied that any dates were available.

At Love's trial in June 1996, Adams testified that the first rape occurred “the week after Christmas 1988.” She testified next three rapes occurred “at least once a month each month after the first time.” Which would have been January, February, and March 1989. Regarding the fifth rape she testified, “I can't remember when the last time was.” Love told his attorneys he was in Mexico during the time period Adams said she was raped. He obtained his mother's telephone records, which showed his mother had received collect calls from Mexico in late 1988 and early 1989. The prosecutor argued that there was no proof the collect calls to Love's mother had been made by Love. The jury convicted Love on four of the five rape charges. Love was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences. Love will be eligible for parole in 2036 when he is 85-years-old.

Since Love's conviction, he has assembled abundant evidence proving that he was in Mexico, before, during, and after the period in which the alleged rapes occurred. In Nov. 2006, Love's conviction was overturned. Love has written numerous articles on wrongfully convicted persons. Many of those articles are posted on the Innocent Inmates of Ohio website.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/07]

Hamilton County, OH
Dante Allen
June 6, 2005

Along with a codefendant, teenager Dante Allen was convicted of charges related to the boarding a Cincinnati Metro bus, waving a gun at passengers and demanding to know if any of the passengers were from Bond Hill in Cincinnati, or knew anything about the murder of Eugene Lampkin that same day. Allen's co-defendant testified that Allen was not on the bus with him, but the bus driver and a passenger identified Allen. Prior to sentencing, another teenager confessed to perpetrating the crime with Allen's codefendant. Allen was released. Allen's codefendant was sentenced to 18 years in prison for scaring bus passengers, a sentence Allen would likely have received.  (JD)  [9/07]

Lucas County, OH
Danny Brown
Dec 5, 1981 (Toledo)

Daniel Brown was convicted of the rape and murder of Bobbie Russell. The crime happened in the Birmingham Terrace apartments in Toledo. Brown knew Russell and had dated her a few times in the months preceding her murder. Russell's 6-year-old son, Jeffrey, who said he caught a fleeting glimpse of the killer, gave a version of the events of the crime that was riddled with inconsistencies, factual impossibilities, and outright fabrications. Jeffery's insistence that “Danny did it” led to Brown's conviction. Years later DNA tests proved Brown innocent and identified the actual killer as Sherman Preston, who was serving a life sentence for a 1982 rape and murder committed under similar circumstances. In 2001, Brown was freed from prison after serving 19 years of incarceration.  (CM) (IP) (HistoryMike)  [6/09]

Lucas County, OH
Elizabeth Golebiewski
May 21, 1983

Elizabeth Golebiewski was convicted of murdering her 19-month-old daughter, Tennille. Tennille was found wedged between her bed and a closet door. The case against Golebiewski was largely circumstantial and hinged on testimony from a prison informant who had a long rap sheet.  (Toledo Blade)

Lucas County, OH
Tony Miller
Dec 14, 1983 (Toledo)

Morgan A. “Tony” Miller was convicted of armed robbery and assault following the robbery of an Arby's restaurant at 1455 Secor Road in Toledo, during which an off-duty police officer named James Snead was shot. Miller had been in the restaurant minutes before the robbery with two friends and even spoke to an employee who knew him and was leaving work. Although the robber wore a stocking mask, Miller was charged with the crime after three witnesses identified him as the robber. One of the witnesses said he got a look at the robber before he put on his mask. Another claimed that she saw the robber's face when he briefly lifted up his mask.
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Montgomery County, OH
Aldridge & Wilcox
Convicted 1985

Robert Aldridge and Jennifer Wilcox were convicted of child abuse. After an investigation by Ohio Observer editor Martin Yant, it was discovered that exculpatory evidence was not turned over to the pair's defense attorneys at the time of their trial. This included medical reports that none of the children allegedly molested showed any signs of sexual abuse. In addition Yant obtained recantations by three of the six child witnesses who said they were coerced into giving false testimony against the two. The witnesses, John, Jason, and Justin Chronopoulos, said they did not even know who Aldridge and Wilcox were until the two were pointed out to them in the courtroom. Subsequent to the investigation, Aldridge's and Wilcox's convictions were vacated in 1996 after they served 11 years of imprisonment.  (Ohio Observer)  [9/08]

Pickaway County, OH
Paul Freshour
Feb 1983 (Circleville)

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.” The envelope was postmarked Columbus, Ohio. There was no return address, no signature inside, no way to tell who sent it.
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Putnam County, OH
Kenny Richey
June 30, 1986

Kenny Richey was sentenced to death for the murder of three-year-old Cynthia Collins. Richey was allegedly angry at an ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, so he allegedly set fire to the apartment above theirs, hoping the fire would burn through the concrete floor and injure them while they slept. The prosecution advanced this theory even though they seemed to agree that Richey knew that Cynthia Collins was sleeping in that apartment. During the fire, Richey had risked his life trying to rescue Cynthia, so his alleged actions do not make sense. Cynthia's mother, Hope Collins, had left in the middle of the night with a convicted drug dealer. When she came back after the fire, she faced prosecution for child abandonment, so she told authorities Richey had agreed to babysit Cynthia.

The prosecution also claimed Richey made vague statements at a party before the fire, saying the building was going to burn, almost as though they were statements about the party. Curiously, the alleged statements imply a casual motive instead of the proffered one. Whether true or not, vague statements are characteristic of perjured testimony. Individuals who lie on the stand typically do not want to get caught and will only readily make statements they can back away from. One witness later denied her testimony while another claimed Richey did not mean anything by the statement she testified to. Richey denied making such statements and thought it was stupid that he would make them if he intended to do what the prosecution alleged.

It was later learned that Cynthia started two previous fires. Carpet remnants from the burned apartment had been discarded and buried at the local dump. After the police retrieved the buried remnants, the remnants were said to contain traces of accelerants, gasoline, and paint thinner. The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Richey's conviction in Jan. 2005. However, the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reinstated the conviction in Nov. 2005. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Sixth Circuit Court, which again reversed Richey's conviction in Aug. 2007. In Dec. 2007, Richey was released after pleading no contest to involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering charges. The plea involved no admission of guilt. He received a time-served sentence.  [12/06]

Van Wert County, OH
John Spirko
Aug 9, 1982

In order to get his girlfriend out of jail for helping him plan a botched escape attempt, John Spirko claimed to know something about the robbery, abduction, and murder of Elgin, OH Postmaster Betty Jane Mottinger. He heard about her on the TV news and read every newspaper article about her he could find. Spirko told authorities a web of lies involving fictitious names. When authorities suspected he was lying, he told them more lies.
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Warren County, OH
Jack Frederick
Apr 23, 1994

Jack L. Frederick was convicted of rape, kidnapping, assault, and domestic violence against Jackie Dawson, an ex-girlfriend. The lack of physical evidence and the evidence of trial witness perjury not only creates reasonable doubt, but also makes likely Frederick's claim that Dawson fabricated the charges in order to retaliate against him for leaving her and failing to share with her half of his $1200 disability check.  (Justice: Denied)  [10/08]

Warren County, OH
Ryan Widmer
Aug 11, 2008

Ryan Widmer was convicted of murder for the bathtub drowning of his wife, Sarah Widmer. The drowning occurred at the Widmer's home in Hamilton Township. Police testified that when found, Sarah's body was drier that it should have been according to story given to them by Ryan. This alleged discrepancy was basically the sole evidence against Ryan. There was no known motive and no evidence that either Sarah or Ryan engaged in a struggle. Sarah's family did not believe the charges against Ryan and held up Sarah's funeral so Ryan could attend. Friends and family said Ryan had no known history of getting angry. They also said Sarah was known to spend hours in the bathtub and that she habitually fell asleep, even as she sat in a car on her way to social outings or during movies. It is possible that Sarah suffered from an undiagnosed seizure disorder or narcolepsy. Some jurors at Ryan's trial engaged in apparent misconduct by conducting their own drying time experiments.  (freeryanwidmer.com) (Google)  [6/09]