Murder suspect not 'principle offender'

Cary Ashby • May 26, 2014 at 11:37 PM

A Norwalk woman charged in connection with a murder-related arson in Sandusky isn't suspected of being the primary offender.

Bethany M. Sandy, 24, of 76 W. Chestnut St., Apt. C, was arrested at her Norwalk apartment late Thursday night and brought to the Sandusky police station for an interview, police said. Following that interview, which happened about 1:30 a.m., Sandy was charged with one count each of complicity to aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated arson and complicity to aggravated robbery.

"It's safe to say we believe her (Sandy) truly to be an accomplice, not the principle offender," said Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter, who spoke to the press Friday.

Sandy's charges are in connection with the Dec. 3 house fire at the home at 2201 Campbell St., Sandusky, of the deceased victim, 86-year-old George Martin.

"Mr. Martin was violently assaulted," Sandusky Police Chief John Orzech said during Friday's press conference.

Martin lived at the home with his wife, 81-year-old Florence.

"The elderly female had arrived shortly after they put out the fire and she believed her husband was still inside the residence," Orzech said about Martin's widow.

"Miss Sandy and her accomplice went to the residence to try and steal money or items that could be sold," Orzech said.

The chief declined to release the name of Sandy's suspected co-defendant and wouldn't comment if the man is related to her.

"He's in custody in one of the prisons in Ohio," said Orzech, who believes the man also is from Norwalk.

"Just these two are involved from what we've learned in the investigation thus far," the chief added.

Orzech credited the Norwalk Police Department with assisting with the investigation, but it's unclear what their role was.

Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton said Detective Sgt. Seth Fry received a tip about the case, which he forwarded to Sandusky police. Fulton referred further questions to Fry, who in turn said he "isn't comfortable talking about the investigations by other agencies." Chief Dave Light couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Sandusky firefighters were called to the Campbell Street fire just before 8:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Upon arrival, they found the two-story, wood-frame, single-family home engulfed in flames. With the help of Perkins Township Fire Department, the blaze was knocked down by about 9 p.m.

Martin's body was riddled with stab wounds. Police have said the attackers set fire to the home in an attempt to destroy any evidence.

In general, Baxter said the charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary or arson "coupled with a purposeful killing" come with a death sentence specification. As far as the Martin case goes, the prosecutor said it will be up to an Erie County grand jury to determine if Sandy's charges constitute a death penalty case.

As of early March, investigators continued to whittle down the list of suspects.

"It's a big whodunit, mainly because there's no clear-cut motive established to point us in the right direction ... which leaves the pool wide open still," Detective Gary Wichman said March 7.

By midnight Dec. 3, local authorities turned the investigation over to the state fire marshal's office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

"Many items are still at BCI. Because of the volume, there are still many things that haven't been tested," Baxter said Friday.

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