PDT Staff Writer
The owner of the burned truck at the center of a murder trial, and the investigating detective, took the stand during day two of the murder trial of Thomas Steinhauer, 47, of Portsmouth, Tuesday in the Scioto County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge William T. Marshall.
Deborah Conn said she loaned her truck to Steinhauer, which she said was not unusual, and had also signed her title and signed a bill of sale in anticipation of Steinhauer purchasing the truck at one point. Defense Attorney Rick Nash asked if Conn was actually in the process of signing the truck over to Steinhauer because she owed him money. She responded that was not the case.
The truck was the one purported to have been used in the killing of Felipe Lopez, 24, of Camp Street, West Portsmouth.
On March 7, 2012, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, agents from the State Fire Marshal’s office, and emergency personnel responded to a report of a truck fire on Junior Furnace Powellsville Road in Franklin Furnace. The truck was engulfed in flames and when the fire was extinguished, a male with burns over 100 percent of his body was discovered in the passenger compartment. Detectives determined that the victim had been stabbed repeatedly and beaten with a hatchet before being burned in the truck.
Conn said she did not have knowledge of what the truck was used for, and she said she tried numerous times that day to reach Steinhauer to no avail. She also reported the truck had been stolen to authorities, but later told them she had loaned the truck to Steinhauer.
Scioto County Sheriff’s Detective Jodi Conkel took the stand and took the jury through a timeline of events, including a route that began on Camp Street and traveled over into Kentucky, where evidence was reportedly dumped, and back into Ohio, ending up on Junior Furnace Road in Franklin Furnace where the truck was later discovered in flames, and with the body of Lopez inside. The jury was shown a videotaped interview Conkel did with Steinhauer. In that interview, Conkel brought up that Raymond “Jimmy” Linkous, David Gerald and he (Steinhauer) had a conversation about having to get rid of Lopez, but Steinhauer also spoke of a conversation with Lopez, in which he said Lopez told him - “You know when we get out of here you’re going to have to do them both.” Steinhauer said he told Lopez he couldn’t do it, and he said Lopez responded - “If you don’t, I’m going to kill you and them.”
Steinhauer then described what happened next.
“He (Lopez) put the gun at my side,” Steinhauer said. He then showed Conkel how he took a fixed-blade knife and began to stab Lopez. “How many times do you think you stabbed him,” Conkel asked. “I don’t know. At least 10,” Steinhauer said.
He said it was right after the stabbing that Gerald, sitting in the back seat with Linkous, started striking Lopez in the head with what was continually referred to as an axe, but was, in fact, a hatchet.
The hatchet, the knife, clothing, and other items were recovered in Kentucky. That evidence, last known to have been transferred from Conkel to John Terry of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, later turned up missing. However, each item had been photographed, and the jury was shown pictures of those items during the course of the trial.
While a gun kept being mentioned in the trial, Conkel said no shots were fired in the truck. She said during the course of the trip from Kentucky back over to Ohio 522 in Wheelersburg, that there was a stop made in Wheelersburg to get gasoline, which was reportedly used to burn the truck with Lopez inside.
Both Linkous and Gerald have already been tried in the murder and both have been convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Linkous also received an additional 26 years and Gerald, an additional 29 years.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org