More evidence in the Matt Spencer case?

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:03 PM

Evidence in the ongoing investigation of former Huron County Sheriff's Detective Matthew S. Spencer has been submitted to the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation (BCI&I). But authorities are staying mum on what that evidence might be.

BCI&I spokeswoman Jennifer Brindisi said she would be committing a felony if she commented on it.

"We are still actively investigating this case, so I can't provide any further information," she said. "It's still open and active. I don't have a timeline on when we'll wrap up."

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter will be representing the state when Spencer's trial begins Jan. 14.

"I don't have any comment on any evidence in a case like this. It's just not appropriate for us to comment, pretrial-wise," he said.

Baxter is prosecuting the case to avoid a conflict of interest with Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler, who regularly handles cases for the sheriff's office.

Defense attorney Greg Shell said: "I really have no idea what the evidence is."

Shell said he heard a rumor in December 2006 that authorities had found "open evidence bags" in the evidence room Spencer had overseen. The attorney said that either means BCI&I has done a "very, very poor" job of investigating or "someone out there is still stealing from the evidence room."

"Either way, it doesn't bode well for them," he said, referring to the sheriff's office. "I don't see how it can be a negative for us."

After Shell heard about the rumor, he discussed it with Baxter's office. The defense attorney said he was told prosecutors didn't have a report on the alleged incident because the sheriff's office didn't generate a report.

Sheriff Richard Sutherland has been unavailable for comment after multiple requests for interviews.

Sgt. Mike Martz said Sutherland appointed him to be in charge of the evidence room "shortly after Matt was put on administrative leave." Martz, who also oversees concealed carry permits, declined to comment on changes in evidence room policies unless he was authorized to do so by Sutherland.

The sheriff fired Spencer, 34, in August 2006 after putting him on two weeks of paid administrative leave, when the investigation of suspected wrongdoing began. The ex-detective is accused of stealing between $10,000 and $15,000 from the evidence room. Investigators also have said Spencer made a false insurance claim about the theft of two firearms, a Fraternal Order of Police emblem, some golf clubs and seven personal checks from his personal vehicle.

Spencer faces charges of theft in office, tampering with records, tampering with evidence, insurance fraud and falsification in connection with incidents from July 2004 through the end of July 2006.

The defendant, most recently of 420 High St., Willard, became a deputy in March 2000. He was the Greenwich police chief for about a month in May 2003 and resigned for personal reasons before rejoining the sheriff's office.

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