Scott D. Hall, 46, of Clyde, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Huron County Common Pleas Court to obstructing official business. His conviction was related to Sheppard, who disappeared in May 2003 but whose body was never found.
“The state would dismiss the remaining charges,” said Judge Jim Conway, referring to two counts of murder and one charge of aggravated robbery.
Co-defendant Adam J. White, 36, of Sandusky, accepted an identical plea deal last week. After the combined sentencing hearing Tuesday, defense attorney Troy Wisehart said he believes White’s conviction was appropriate given the evidence in the case.
“My client wishes to get on with his life,” Wisehart added, echoing what he said in court.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case. Assistant attorney general Christian Stickan said Hall, when questioned by law enforcement officials, denied “his knowledge of the circumstances” behind Sheppard’s death from May 2003 until the present, when he in fact did have that information. The prosecutor didn’t elaborate.
On Oct. 22, co-defendant Joshua W. Stamm, 37, of Florida, accepted a plea deal and was convicted as Sheppard’s shooter. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and provided investigators with details on what happened the night Sheppard was killed. Stamm received a three-year prison sentence, which was recommended as part of his plea agreement; he is serving it at the same time as his sentences for unrelated weapon charges in Florida.
Since Hall previously spent 163 days in the Huron County Jail. Conway said the defendant faced no more additional jail time and he could only impose a $750 fine and $250 in court costs. The judge also ordered Hall to report to the probation department to have his ankle monitor removed. The maximum jail time for obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor, is 90 days.
White, who also was free on bond, served 67 days behind bars. During Tuesday’s hearing, the judge placed him on two years of basic probation and fined him $750 plus $250 in court costs.
The co-defendants declined to address the court Tuesday. As the hearing progressed, a family friend of Sheppard’s mother, Rosalie Gottwald, of Milan, comforted her with a hand on her shoulder. Gottwald’s husband did the same. Sheppard’s family also declined to speak in court.
Initially, the Perkins Township Police Department investigated Sheppard’s disappearance as a missing person’s case. The victim was 34 years old when he was last seen alive May 8, 2003 in Huron County. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) took over the case in 2009.
But the search for Sheppard’s remains continues. BCI spokesman Steve Irwin said BCI agents and a team from Texas Equusearch started looking for the victim’s body Monday and planned to continue their search until Wednesday if necessary.
When asked about the progress and what possibly had been found, the agency spokesman said “the search is underway” without elaborating.
On Oct. 25 — three days after Stamm was sentenced to prison, authorities were digging in the area of Fox Lane — a private road located off U.S. 250 between Norwalk and Milan, just south of the Erie County line. The Norwalk Reflector witnessed a BCI team using a small excavator to dig up an area covering about 60 yards in a ravine off Fox Lane.
On Tuesday, a crew was about 150 feet from the same area.
“No one believes he (Sheppard) was even buried there,” Gottwald told the Reflector last year when asked about the excavation work. “The experts don’t believe he was buried there and the family doesn’t believe he was buried there.”
A similar team was in the same area searching for the victim’s corpse nearly 10 years ago.
When BCI agent Tom Brokamp took over the investigation, Sheppard’s family spent years feeling ignored by law enforcement whose apathy toward the case let the trail go cold. Brokamp spent years investigating and eventually concluded that the victim was killed during a drug dispute at a home near the Erie-Huron county line. His investigation led to the indictments of Hall, White and Stamm in mid-May 2017.
Gottwald had told the Reflector she believed her son was killed during a drug deal gone wrong and buried “very close to the Milan area.” She also said her family believed Sheppard “was working (Las Vegas drug) connections for local people” at some point.
Sheppard lived in Las Vegas for about seven years. After his divorce, he moved back in with his parents in Perkins Township.
Conway said Tuesday he appreciated the feedback from the victim’s family that he heard during Stamm’s hearings. The judge also said the case has been “a lengthy process” and he hoped the recent convictions have given the family some sense of closure.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tandem Media Network reporter Michael Harrington contributed to this story.