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1988 cold case reopened for TV crime show

TNS Regional News • Sep 9, 2013 at 5:07 PM

Sherry Henry can't remember a day that hit her as hard as the 25th anniversary of her mother's slaying.

Her mother, Isabel Cordle, was found bludgeoned to death on Jan. 24, 1988. "It really affected me," Ms. Henry said. "The 25th year ruined my day."

Months later, Ms. Henry was contacted by the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities let her know they were reopening her mother's homicide investigation and hoping to crack it with the help of a new television show called Cold Justice.

"I was ecstatic, although it was very emotional," Ms. Henry said. "This was all I'd ever prayed for for 25 years."

Cold Justice, which debuted last week on TNT, is described as a "real life crime series" that looks at unsolved murders in small towns across the country.

Its segment about the slaying of Isabel Cordle is to air Oct. 15.

"I don't care who it is, I just want whoever it is to pay the price," said Ms. Henry, 50, who now lives west of Indianapolis. "Whoever did this obviously does not have a conscience. It was brutal. To walk away from that and go on with your life is unfathomable to me."

Mrs. Cordle, 49, was beaten over the head with a hatchet as she slept on the couch in the living room of her home along U.S. 20 just west of Bellevue.

She had been out playing Bingo that night. When she returned home, she got her nightgown on, and fell asleep on the couch.

The victim's husband, Richard Cordle, was sleeping in the couple's first-floor bedroom.

He called the sheriff's office after getting up about 6 a.m. and finding his wife.

He told deputies the door to the garage was open and the television was on, but he said neither he nor the couple's three children heard anything unusual that night.

There were no signs of a break-in, but a bloodied hatchet was found leaning up against a tree in front of the house.

It's an image that's stayed with retired Deputy Paul Overmyer, who was one of the first to arrive at the Cordle home.

"The thing that stuck in my mind is here's a place in the middle of nowhere and somebody puts a hatchet in a woman's head and takes it out and props it up against a tree," Mr. Overymyer, 71, said. "If you would've shot somebody or stabbed somebody, you probably would've driven to a creek or a river and tossed it over the side."

In the ensuing weeks, deputies canvassed the area for witnesses, sent evidence to a lab to check for fingerprints, searched for the store that sold the hatchet, and interviewed the victim's husband and children. A grand jury was convened, but no indictments were issued.

"My gut feeling was she knew [her killer] and it was somebody who'd been at the house," Mr. Overmyer said.

Fast forward 25 years.

The retired deputy's son, Kyle Overmyer, who was 14 when Mrs. Cordle was killed, is now Sandusky County's sheriff.

He said he has wanted to reopen the county's six or so unsolved homicides.

When he got a call from TNT last spring, he agreed to work with producers of the new crime show.

"When you're dealing with families that have lost loved ones, they want closure," Sheriff Overmyer said. "I figured what a great way to do that, to try to close up one of these cases or at least attempt to. It would be nice for these families to have an answer."

Working with a reality TV show meant opening the office's case files and evidence room to the Cold Justice team and allowing it to film the sheriff, Detective Capt. Sean O'Connell, and Detective Sgt. Zachary Zender over two weeks in June as they interviewed witnesses and those considered potential witnesses.

Most of those they spoke with, including Richard Cordle and Sue Thompson, whom Mr. Cordle married within a year of his wife's slaying, agreed to on-camera interviews.

The couple now lives in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Detective O'Connell said the Cordles were interviewed twice over the summer -- at the Fort Wayne police station and at the Wood County Sheriff's Office after Mr. Cordle underwent a polygraph exam administered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in Bowling Green.

The detective said the hatchet, clothing, and other evidence were submitted to a lab for DNA testing.

No one has been charged.

Investigators hope the Cold Justice episode will prompt more witnesses to come forward, perhaps people who worked with Mr. Cordle and Ms. Thompson at the former Van Dresser automotive parts plant in Norwalk in 1988.

Ms. Henry, who was living in nearby Bellevue with her husband and two children when her mother was killed, said she talked with her mom every morning and remembered her as a person who loved to laugh, loved her children and grandchildren. Mrs. Cordle had three grown children from a previous marriage and three children with Mr. Cordle.

The investigation caused rifts between her and some family members, Ms. Henry said.

"I was prepared for that and I'm at peace with that," Ms. Henry said, explaining that she remains determined to "bring justice to my mother."


By Jennifer Feehan - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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