Murder suspects plead not guilty

Cary Ashby • Updated May 20, 2017 at 12:33 AM

Rosalie Gottwald considers having a trio of suspects indicted in connection with her son’s murder a step toward closure.

“Oh yes,” the Milan woman said after Thursday’s arraignment.

During the proceedings in Huron County Common Pleas Court, defendants Scott D. Hall, 44, of Clyde, and Adam J. White, 34, of Sandusky, entered “not guilty” pleas to two counts each of murder and one charge of aggravated robbery. Each of the felonies comes with a firearm specification, which adds three years consecutive to their sentences.

A third defendant, Joshua Stamm, 35, of Titusville, Fla., faces similar charges. He has agreed to waive his extradition and authorities are waiting for him to transported to Ohio.

If convicted of murder, each defendant faces 15 years to life in prison. Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony punishable by three to 11 years.

Gottwald, in previous interviews with the Reflector, has said she believes three people were involved in the murder of her son, Michael A. Sheppard, who possibly stole between $15,000 to $20,000 and was killed in a drug deal that “went bad.” Investigators have alleged the suspects shot Sheppard in 2003.

After Thursday’s two hearings, Gottwald said “all three” of the men are the suspects she mentioned but didn’t name earlier. She added she doesn’t believe there are other defendants.

Sheppard’s body has not been located. His mother has said she believes her son was buried in the Milan area. The Perkins Township victim was last seen alive May 8, 2003 in Huron County.

Defense attorney Troy Wisehart, who has been hired to represent White, said “this case is paper thin.”

“My understanding is there’s no body. There’s no weapon and there are no eyewitnesses,” said Wisehart, who pointed out that most murder cases include all three elements.  

Starting April 29, 2010, agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and members of search teams from  Ohio, New York and Illinois started a seven-day search for Sheppard’s remains near Rattlesnake Creek. The area  is just inside the Huron County line near the Erie County line.

Huron County Public Defender David Longo, who is representing Hall, said in court he believes authorities didn’t indict the suspects on probable cause, but on the hope they will get the statement they need to break open the case. Wisehart, during his client’s arraignment, said White had provided five statements to various law enforcement agencies.

Over the past 14 years of the investigation, several agencies have contributed to the probe, including the Erie County and Huron County sheriff's offices and the police departments in Huron, Kelleys Island, Norwalk, Perkins Township and Sandusky.

Margaret Tomaro, an Ohio assistant attorney general, requested a $500,000 bond each for Hall and White. Their attorneys argued the bail amount was too high and said their clients are lifelong area residents who didn’t flee the area during the course of the investigation.

Judge Jim Conway followed the prosecutor’s recommendations for bond. He also ruled that if the defendants post their bail, they must be on electronically-monitored house arrest.

Hall has been in the Huron County Jail since Tuesday, when the U.S. Marshal Service transported him there.

Erie County sheriff’s deputies originally brought White to the same facility, but he has been transferred to the Ashland County Jail. He wore an Ashland County jumpsuit to court Thursday.

“They took him to the Ashland County Jail and I’m not sure why,” said White’s attorney, Wisehart, after the hearing. “It makes it very difficult to talk to him.”

When Wisehart made that point in court, Conway said Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin makes the decisions on where prisoners are jailed. 

The defendants’ next hearings are June 19 pretrials. Their final pre-trial hearings are scheduled for July 31 and their trial dates are Aug. 8.

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