Cold Case Project: 1987 triple homicide vexes Preble County investigators

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 @ 4:13 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 @ 4:13 PM

On October 30, 1987, three people were murdered in a home in Eaton on Consolidated Road. The case is still unsolved. Watch this video for details.

When the three bodies were found, the killer already had a 3-day head start – and the killer has stayed ahead of law enforcement for 25 years.

“I would just love to know what happened,” said Becca Newcomb, whose sister Melinda was one of the three people killed at the isolated cabin at 2188 Consolidated Road, just southwest of Eaton. “I’m really not about vengeance. But I would like some justice.”

On Nov. 2, 1987, a man found the bodies of David C. Smelser, 31, Donald L. Marker, 28, and Melinda S. Newcomb, 24, there. All three had been shot, presumably on Oct. 30.

A friend, Doug Crowell, had gone there to check on Smelser, who lived at the cabin. Marker had been staying there with him. Smelser worked for Crowell’s family, which owned a plumbing business.

October 30, 1987 was a Friday. Crowell told the Dayton Daily News in 1988 that the following day, Smelser was to meet him at 7:30 a.m. to pull stumps. Smelser didn’t show up. He also didn’t show up for work Monday, so Crowell went to the cabin.

“It struck me funny that Melinda Newcomb’s car was in the drive because Melinda didn’t even know Dave,” Crowell said in 1988.

Crowell had also been looking for Newcomb that weekend. Newcomb rented an apartment that was owned by Crowell’s family and her rent was due.

The cabin, which was built in the early 19th century and has since been torn down, sat more than 200 yards from the road. When Crowell arrived, he saw Smelser’s truck was there too. Crowell found Smelser’s pit bull still chained up, even though Smelser usually turned him loose when he was home. The sun hadn’t set, but the back porch and yard lights were on. A country music radio station played inside the house, but everything else was quiet.

But when Crowell looked inside the kitchen window, what he saw sent him running back to his truck. He drove down to the home of the nearest neighbor, who had to help him make the call to the sheriff’s office.

Smelser’s body lay face up on the living room floor. He’d been shot once, in the head.

Marker and Newcomb were in the kitchen, a few feet inside the door.

Becca Newcomb said that the coroner’s report shows Melinda had been shot twice in the head.

                                         

Based on the scene, investigators surmised that Smelser was the target, and that the other two may have arrived before the killer was able to leave the house. There were no signs of a struggle.

The case has vexed investigators ever since. Preble County asked Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents to look at the evidence back in the 1990s, but “we ended up at the same place we are now,” Sheriff Mike Simpson said.

There is a “good person of interest,” but there has never been enough evidence to prosecute that person, Simpson said.

Smelser worked as a plumber’s helper at Crowell Plumbing, but his goal was to be a farmer. Relatives described him as a modern version of Davy Crockett. He rented the farmhouse for $30 a month, planted a garden and hunted rabbit, squirrel and deer with his longbow.

Marker had lived in Colorado before returning to Preble County around April 1987. He left a wife and three children out west. His mother, who lived in Eaton, told the Dayton Daily News that Marker fled Colorado to avoid appearing in court on a drunk driving charge. Marker got a job in a poultry processing plant, and lived in a trailer parked inside Smelser’s barn until it got cold and Smelser let him stay in the cabin.

The night of the slayings, Marker and Newcomb had been drinking at The Stable, a bar in Eaton. Marker, whose driver’s license had been revoked, needed a ride home. Newcomb agreed to give him one.

Melinda Newcomb, who worked at a group home for mentally challenged adults, was known to play darts regularly at The Stable. Friends and family still don’t know if Marker and Newcomb had met before that night, Becca Newcomb said.

A heavy-set woman who had recently lost more than 60 pounds, Melinda Newcomb was finding her way in life, her sister said. She described a witty woman who used her humor to mask her insecurities, which made her “always seeking approval,” Becca Newcomb said.

Among her personal effects, the family found applications for Sinclair Community College.

“My greatest hope for her was that she would have gone to school and found her niche in helping people,” said Becca, who is a retired Northmont teacher. “She had so much love and caring to give.”

The Newcombs’ mother died in 2003. Their father is 84. A third sister lives in Indiana. Melinda Newcomb’s family had no relationship to Preble County, as Newcomb moved to Eaton for her job. But Becca Newcomb said she remains amazed that in a small rural community, no one has come forward with information leading to an arrest in the slayings.

“If this was your brother, your sister, your child, your nephew, your niece, wouldn’t you want to know?” she asked. “It won’t heal us. Nothing will make us whole, but part of us will rest lighter.”

Simpson said that’s what his investigators need, and that they also believe that people other than the killer have information about what happened that night.

“This is still an open case for us and will be until it is solved,” Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson said. “Somebody knows. We need that information brought forward.”

Anyone with information about the Oct. 30, 1987 slayings of David Smelser, Donald Marker and Melinda Newcomb should call the Preble County Sheriff’s Office at 937-456-6262.

Florida woman gets injured in robbery, threatens to sue homeowner

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 3:36 PM

Upright
Pasco County Sheriff's Office
Upright(Pasco County Sheriff's Office)

A woman in the Tampa area allegedly stole items from a home on Sunday and then threatened to sue the owner when she got hurt. 

Pasco County Sheriff deputies said Julie Upright stole 42 loading decorative blocks that were in the yard of the home, Bay News 9 reports.

The victim said the stolen blocks were worth $10 each and part of a remodeling project, according to Bay News 9. He caught Upright taking the blocks in the front yard. 

Upright told deputies that she thought the blocks were “trash” and threatened to sue the owner because she hurt her back while loading them into her car. 

Deputies took her to the local jail on charges of grand theft. 

Read more at baynews9.com

Moraine officer-involved shooting: 5 questions we’re asking

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 1:15 PM

Sky 7 footage of the Signal 99 in Moraine

Two Moraine police officers fired their weapons at a 23-year-old man Friday, killing him on scene, police said.

Moraine Police Chief Craig Richardson said the man — identified by the Montgomery County Coroner as Jamarco McShann, 23, of Dayton — pointed a gun at officers, who were investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle on Pinnacle Park Drive.

LATEST: Moraine police shooting

DATABASE: Officer-involved shootings

PHOTOS: Scene of shooting

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation will conduct an independent investigation into the shooting, a BCI spokeswoman told this news organization.

Moraine shooting: Man killed identified

Richardson said the Moraine department will have more information in a later press conference.

Here are five outstanding questions about this morning’s shooting in Moraine:

1. What type of gun did the man shot have? Moraine police said that “the officers located the suspect in the vehicle, the suspect pointed a handgun at the officers and two Moraine police officers responded with gunfire.” Police have not said what type of handgun McShann had.

SHOTS FIRED: Scanner traffic from Moraine shooting

2. What warnings, if any, were officers able to give the suspect? We do not know if officers were able to warn the man to drop the gun before shooting him.

3. Who are the officers who fired at the man? This newsroom has asked for more information about the officers who fired at McShann. Specifically, we’ve asked for their personnel files and whether they are still on-duty. Typically after an officer-involved shooting, the officer will go on an administrative leave during the investigation.

4. When was Moraine’s last officer-involved shooting? The Dayton Daily News I-Team’s database of officer involved shootings does not list any Moraine police shootings. Using news coverage and other records, the I-Team’s database keeps a tally of all known area officer-involved shootings since 1995.

5. What is McShann’s background? We are seeking more information about the man shot to death.

Thief unwittingly leaves wallet, photo ID at crime scene

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 11:00 PM

A thief unwittingly turned himself in after leaving his wallet behind after leaving a Dayton store.

Police said they were dispatched to Dollar General on 2312 N. Main St. in Dayton around 8 a.m. Saturday, and found a wallet left behind by one of the suspects. Police found several items with the suspect’s name on them, including a photo ID. 

The second suspect was identified as a heavyset man between 30 and 40, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt. The suspect ran away on foot south through the nearby alley, appearing to have several items hidden under his sweatshirt. 

According to reports, police found hangers with five children’s outfits near the wallet, as well as three packs of Ivory soap and a Halloween mask.

Dayton K-9 unit searching for armed robbery suspect

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 9:32 AM
Updated: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 10:31 AM

UPDATE @ 10:32 a.m.

Police continue to search for the suspect in a reported armed robbery at a Dayton Dollar General Saturday morning.

Dispatchers said police have yet to find a person matching the description of the suspect.

INITIAL REPORT

Dayton police are searching for a man who reportedly robbed a South Gettysburg business at gunpoint Saturday morning, according to dispatchers. 

Crews were dispatched to the Dollar General at 888 South Gettysburg Avenue around 9:12 on a reported armed robbery. 

Initial reports indicate a man in a black ball cap robbed the store and left on foot in an unknown direction. 

Dispatchers reported police are using a K-9 unit to search for the suspect in the area. 

We will continue to follow updates in this developing story.

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