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No indictment in Mason shotgun death

UPDATE@6:19 p.m.:

A Warren County grand jury declined to issue an indictment for murder against Timothy Sparks, the husband of a Mason woman shot to death on March 30 at their home.

Unless new evidence is found, the decision - announced in a press conference Monday - closed the case more than five months after Sparks called 911 to report his wife had been shot during a struggle over a shotgun in their bedroom in Mason, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

“He’s lived with this cloud of suspicion,” lawyer Charles Rittgers Sr. said. “He can get on with his life and get on with mourning her death.”

After reviewing the evidence and range of potential charges, Fornshell said his office decided to present a case for a single count of murder with a gun specification and let the grand jury decide whether Sparks meant to kill his wife or if she died as he tried to wrestle the gun away from her.

“Either he purposely intended to kill his wife or it was an accident while he was struggling with her to obtain the firearm from her while she was contemplating committing suicide,” Fornshell said.

Timothy Sparks, 58, told police that the shotgun went off as they struggled in their bedroom about 6:45 a.m Monday, March 30. When police arrived, Susan Sparks was dead and Timothy Sparks was covered in blood, on the bed next to her.

A press release issued by Mason listed the death as “questionable.” The Warren County coroner declared the cause of her death undetermined.

Susan Sparks, 56, suffered from severe depression, according to her family, Rittgers and Fornshell.

Before she was shot, she said, “It will be better this way,” according to police reports.

While toxicology tests showed she was not under the influence of drugs at the time of her death, Fornshell said she overdosed on drugs before.

The shotgun that killed Susan Sparks was being stored, unloaded, in the home by their son, a Marine at the Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base, Fornshell said. The shells were kept elsewhere in the home, he said.

Timothy Sparks eventually retained Rittgers, but Fornshell noted Sparks talked with Mason police for about five hours without a lawyer. He was never arrested.

There was evidence of financial difficulties, including a May 2015 judgment against the couple for $8,501.49 owed to the Ohio Department of Taxation.

Still Fornshell acknowledged it remained unclear to him what happened that day in the home on Mackenzie Court, near the Heritage Club golf course in Mason.

“Can I stand up here today and tell you what happened? I cannot,” he said.

Fornshell said a case for aggravated murder was not presented to the grand jury due to lack of evidence of “prior calculation or design”, or a plan, by Timothy Sparks, while voluntary manslaughter was rejected for lack of evidence of a “sudden fit of rage or passion.” There was no evidence of another felony being committed to support an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Neither reckless or negligent homicide fit the case based on Timothy Sparks’ statements that he was trying to pull the gun away from his wife, Fornshell said.

“That would mean he was trying to wrestle a loaded firearm away from her while she was contemplating committing suicide,” Fornshell said.

Fornshell said it would take new evidence to reopen the case.

“At this particular point in time, I would be hard-pressed to tell you what kind of evidence that would be,” he added. “From the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office standpoint, this case is closed.”

First report:

A Warren County grand jury declined to issue an indictment for murder against Timothy Sparks, the husband of a Mason woman shot to death on March 30 at their home.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said the grand jury was presented a case for murder with a gun specification alleging Sparks purposely shot his wife, Susan Sparks, with a shotgun.

“At the end of the day, there was not sufficient evidence,” Fornshell said Monday during a press conference in Lebanon.

The Warren County coroner was unable to determine whether the fatal shot that killed 56-year-old Susan Sparks in her Mason home in March was homicide, suicide or accidental.

Timothy Sparks told police that the shotgun went off as they struggled in their bedroom. On Monday, Fornshell said Susan Sparks suffered from severe depression, supporting indications she was attempting to commit suicide.

The coroner ruled the cause of death was undetermined.

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