DeWine hosts course for unsolved homicide strategies

January 22, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is hosting the first Unsolved Homicide Investigative Strategies and Resources course today for detectives who are conducting cold case homicide investigations. DeWine announced plans for the training sessions in September, which are being held as part of his Ohio Unsolved Homicide initiative. The course is the first of several regional courses planned throughout the state.

Detectives will be trained on several aspects of cold case investigations, such as unsolved homicide methodology, initial assessment, protocol, and solvability. A review panel will also examine evidence in a number of open homicide cases and present recommendations. The panel will include members of local law enforcement, BCI agents, BCI Laboratory personnel, an Attorney General Special Prosecutor and unsolved homicide investigators and experts.

In September of 2012, DeWine announced a new plan to focus more attention on Ohio Unsolved Homicides. The effort includes listing every Ohio cold case homicide on the Attorney General’s website and offering Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) expert services. In November, as part of his Ohio Unsolved Homicides Initiative, DeWine urged those with information on an unsolved double homicide in Pike County to come forward.

Jennifer Burgette and Curtis Francis were murdered six years ago, on Dec. 9, 2006. The bodies of the engaged couple were found in the home they shared at 124 Hopper Road in Piketon. Both victims were asleep when they were shot.

“This is a case where we are certain someone knows exactly who killed these two people,” DeWine said. “Anyone with information should come forward and help authorities take this killer off the streets.”

A Portsmouth woman and her boyfriend, both bludgeoned to death in 1970 in Columbus, continues to haunt the Columbus Cold Case files.

The bodies of Mary Petry, 20, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Petry of 2201 Scioto Trail, in Portsmouth, and William Sproat, 23, of Havertown, Pa., a graduate student at The Ohio State University, were found in Sproat’s apartment in 1970.

On Friday, Feb. 28, 1970, Sproat met Petry at the bus station downtown and drove her back to his apartment at 378 W. 8th Ave. Sproat’s roommate, Thomas McGuigan, who had left for the night, witnessed a gruesome scene around 1 o’clock the next morning. When he returned to the apartment, he discovered that Sproat and Petry had been tied up with coat hangers, beaten with a bowling ball, and stabbed to death. Sproat’s body was found in the bathroom. Sproat’s wrists were bound to his ankles behind his back with coat hangers wound so tightly police theorized pliers may have been used to tighten them. He had been stabbed about 20 times. Petry, a junior at Mt. St. Joseph’s College in Cincinnati at the time of the murders, was found semi-nude on the bed. She had been sexually assaulted. No sign of forced entry was found and the door was unlocked.

Scioto County also has several unsolved homicides including one that occurred four years ago. In December of 2008, Portsmouth police discovered a local businessman murdered in his office on a Sunday morning.

According to police, an alarm was reported at Lookin’ Good Hair and Tan, 510 Offnere St., at about 10:12 a.m. Other businesses also occupied the building, and police said all of them were operated by the Rowles family. Upon arriving on the scene, officers found an open door on the north side of the building. Inside, they reportedly found Fredrick Rowles, 57, of Rosemount, dead in the general office. That case remains unsolved.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com